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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Seasons (don’t) change: 10 ways you’ll know it’s winter here in Israel.

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Israelis love to make a big deal of the seasons changing.  Heck, you can even drive up to the northern Galil and Golan to see colourful leaves on trees.

But I’m not buying it.  It’s all just an act.

As far as I’m concerned, there are exactly two seasons here:  good weather and hot weather.

We’re in good weather right now.  I feel like a human being, as opposed to a wrung-out sponja mop.

Nevertheless, Israelis insist on referring to the bit from November to February as winter.  They walk around shivering and kvetching about the cold.  This is disorienting, because if I close my eyes, it could be any season. 

I hope this Top Ten list will help you orient yourself when it comes to figuring out if it’s winter.

Top ten ways you’ll know it’s winter here in Israel:

  1. Edible sign #1:  Krembo (aka “the wintertime ice cream”), in all the grocery stores.
  2. Edible sign #2:  Sufganiyot (Chanukah jelly donuts), in all the bakeries (replaced after Chanukah by oznei Haman, hamentaschen).
  3. Boots!  Everyone loves boots!  On a warm, sunny day, of the type that we’d call “summer” back in Toronto, they’ll all – young women especially – be out in these crazy-hot fuzzy boots that are more about the “winter fashion statement” than about actually keeping warm.  But that’s okay, because it’s not cold.
  4. Sweaters.  Yup, winter is all about dressing the part.  Sweaters, too, are fashion statements.  Hoodies are so popular there’s a store named after them.  (It’s called “Hoodies.”)
  5. Xmas decorations.  Yes, it’s the Jewish state.  Still, it’s true.  Between the Russian Christians in the Krayot and the Arab Christians in Haifa, this is one of the best areas in the country if you’re planning to celebrate.  Okay, maybe Bethlehem is better.
  6. Rain.  Sometimes, it rains.  Big clue here.  Suddenly, umbrellas are on sale everywhere.
  7. Green.  The sand pit in front of our house has sprouted its annual lawn (see below). 
  8. Colds.  The minute they get wet, Israelis get sick.  Don’t ask me why.  Oh, yeah, maybe because they’re all sneezing and coughing all over each other on public transit.  Then holding the poles with their coughed-upon hands.
  9. Jackets.  Mainly on children.  I saw a woman yesterday in a t-shirt and flip flops, walking around on a sunny warm morning, holding the hand of a child bundled up in a proper winter coat.  See above; this does not stop every child from getting sick and turning snotty the minute he is rained upon.
  10. Dark.  The sun sets just after 4 p.m.?!??  We have about an hour of decent light in our apartment these days, between when the sun has fully risen and when it begins to set.  Whose brilliant idea was it to switch from Daylight Savings Time?

“Here,” of course, refers only to the humid coastal plain along the Mediterranean.  Farther inland, farther up on the mountainy bits, you get things like snow.  It more closely resembles the orderly cycle of four seasons that I’ve lived with my entire life.

Here, though, the cycle of the seasons here is best symbolized by the annual cycle of our building’s ratty front yard.

This is how it looked just two months ago, at Sukkos/Sukkot:

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Sand, sand, sand.

Here’s how it looks now:

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Yeah, this is still the world’s tackiest “lawn,” including that mysterious patch of fake green grass.  Sorry.  None of that junk out there is ours.  But at least it’s green, or starting to be.

Like a guy with hair transplants, grass here comes in sparsely at first, overwhelmed by a sea of new-sprouted weeds (does a hair transplant get weeds?).

It gets bushier in December and January, bolstered by a few weeks of rain.  After that, it keeps on growing, but turns brown in February and March, until right before Pesach.  Then, they mow it down, rake it up, and it’s a sand pit once again.

This is a little like me here.  I wilt in summer, come to life briefly in the fall, winter and early spring… and then get ready to wilt all over again.  Sponja time.

People told us before we came that it takes about 2 years to get used to the weather in Israel.   We’ll see about that.  What I do know already is that I’m enjoying my second winter here very much.

Even if, like everyone around me, I’m only pretending it’s winter.

[photo credit:  BenHur, Nova, Jongleur100, SpaceJ via Wikimedia]

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה


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