This morning I had to scrape ice off my car's windshield. This statement may appear banal unless I add that it was the first time ever that I experienced such low temperatures in Tel Aviv, a city where the average temperature during the winter months is 18 °C and it can easily go up to 25°C.
Since I don’t own an ice scraper, I resorted to the old trick of using a credit card, which I learnt during my long stay in cold climates in the US. My partner was impressed, he has never seen ice on a windshield before, and thought me resourceful.
Since Thursday we have been having a historic winter storm in Israel. In Tel Aviv it has been raining continuously, and we had several hail storms. Also, it was the heaviest snow storm since 1953, Jerusalem is still covered with almost a meter of snow and is disconnected from the rest of the country. Snow continued to fall across Israel till Saturday afternoon resulting in major power outages and road closures. At its worst 60,000 houses did not have electricity, now it is down to 18,000.
Back when my daughters were young we went down from Iowa City to St Louis for Thanksgiving. At the end of the weekend when we were heading back, we heard a winter storm warning. Still we decided to take a chance and drove back hoping that we would be able to get home on time.
Unfortunately, as we drove north the weather got more and more severe, with a blizzard and zero visibility. We almost made it, but near Fairfield Iowa, a mere 59 Miles / 94 Km south of Iowa City, the highway was blocked and rescue operators evacuated the stranded passengers to the homes of the townspeople who offered to put them up for the night.
The whole operation was swift, efficient and calm, our very young daughters (2 and 3) were not even alarmed. The four of us spent the night at a home of a very welcoming couple who fed us and put us up.
The generous members of the Fairfield community opened their homes to strangers in need as a matter of fact. Besides the humanity of the invitation, what impressed me most about this solution was its simplicity. As the weather became increasingly dangerous, the rescue forces prepared for the eventuality of closing the road and lined up volunteers.
I have been listening to the Israeli radio since Friday, hearing speculations and accusations of who is to blame for the unfortunate outcomes of this winter storm. I am sure that we could find numerous errors and poor judgments, but there was no way to predict something so unfamiliar, which has not happened in Israel for 60 years. Perhaps a simpler question to ask is who is responsible for the winter storm, and that of course would be God or Nature, thus it could be easy to just pin the blame on Him.
At the end the army was called to the rescue; it has the right equipment and the expertise. As Israel allocates so much money to the needs of our Defense, it is only fair that the army come through at a time of need by clearing the closed roads and helping those who were stranded in their homes without electricity, water or food.
But perhaps before the next winter storm it is a good idea to line up a pool of volunteers in other cities who would put up people who are at risk of being stranded in case of a storm. When the storm starts they could be transported to safety before the roads are completely closed.
The rescue operation in Fairfield was simple and inexpensive, and in the freezing weather it really felt like a heartwarming solution.