JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A rare heavy snowfall covered Jerusalem, some of northern Israel and hilly areas in the occupied West Bank overnight into Thursday, shutting down roads and schools.
Worshippers had to trudge through inches of snow to reach the holy sites in Jerusalem’s walled Old City, including the snow-capped Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall.
Heavy snow is rare in the city, so children went out into the streets to watch the flakes falling and hurl snowballs at each other.
Abed Shabany, 39, took his two sons to play on a hill overlooking Jerusalem. As he reversed his Jeep through inches of slush, other parents kept themselves warm brewing coffee on gas canisters in their boots.
“I haven’t seen anything like this for years,” he said. “There’s no school today so I’m just going around with the kids making snowmen and snowballs. I think it’s a good sign. It will be a good year, I hope.”
Municipality cherry-pickers were out in the city centre, sawing off broken and dangerous branches, with much less traffic on the roads than usual.
Police closed off several main highways leading to Jerusalem, and bus services inside the city were suspended.
Throughout the night, 210 snow ploughs worked to clear the city streets, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion told Israel Army Radio on Thursday morning. The snow piled up to a height of about 20 centimeters (8 inches), according to Israeli media.
Before arriving in Jerusalem, the winter storm swept through the Mediterranean region, from Greece across Turkey and into Syria.
(Reporting by Ammar Awad and Ronen Zevulun in Jerusalem, writing by Stephen Farrell in Jerusalem and Henriette Chacar in Haifa; editing by Mark Heinrich)