Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Dreaming of a White Jerusalem

January 10, 2013 3:45 pm 1 comment

Snow in Jerusalem.

Many dream of Jerusalem—from David and Maimonides to Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain—but when Israelis dream of Jerusalem, we always dress her in white.

Snow suits Jerusalem. She is our Snow White. It is the color of purity for a city that represents God’s grace and prayers that are sometimes answered, sometimes not.

King David prayed to build a city and God’s Temple.  David got part of his wish, but Abraham Lincoln and Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Levi (among many other leaders and rabbis) apparently never got here. Had they seen Jerusalem covered in snow, they would certainly have felt blessed.

Snow enhances Jerusalem’s special light—an effect that mystics, jaundiced journalists and sharp-eyed photographers alike have detected.

“When you photograph or film in Jerusalem, you have to  factor in one-f-stop beyond what your light meter tells you, or else it won’t work,” my late friend, film-maker Adir Zik, told me many times. Adir stressed that when mystics and cabalists “see the light” in Jerusalem, they are actually noticing a real fact of life.

For most of the year, Jerusalem’s natural colors are, as Israel’s great composer Naomi Shemer beautifully wrote: “Jerusalem of gold, and of copper and of light.” Yet, the Jerusalem of Gold is enhanced by white, like a bride.

Waking at dawn to several inches of snow in Jerusalem means encountering an ethereal glow replacing the usual wintry darkness before  sunrise, and when the sun emerges on Zion’s silent, snowy streets and the walls of the Old City, the effect is magical, even hypnotic.

Jerusalem has always been the stuff of our dreams and our desires, especially for Jews in the Diaspora who ended the Passover seder with words Le-shana ha-ba’a b-yerushalayim: “Next year in Jerusalem.”

This prayer clearly spread to many non-Jews who took the “shining city on the hill” and “wait till next year” as their own prayer for a better life, a better result.

“Wait till next year” became the anthem of the old Brooklyn Dodgers, a great baseball team that symbolized the dreams of the common man, a team that was the first to include non-Whites as players (Jackie Robinson) , and  a team that seemingly could not quite win the championship at the end of the season.

Many Dodger fans (including my mother) were Jewish, and their Jewishly-infused “Next Year in Jerusalem”  morphed into “wait till next year”: a universal prayer.

It even reached Chicago and Boston, where the fans of the seemingly cursed  Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox were converted to praying for a miracle.

Snow in Jerusalem is, of course, no miracle, but it can have miraculous effects, like bringing together people of many different backgrounds and political points of view.

Praying for snow in Jerusalem has become something of a tradition among Israelis—a prayer uniting the more religious Jerusalemites and the usually secular folk from Tel Aviv and Haifa who like to visit Jerusalem when its stones are softened by a little of the white, hexagonal flakes.

There is nothing like watching the child-like joy of the supposedly sophisticated coastal Israelis shlepping snow balls back to Tel Aviv and Netanya.

Perhaps we Israelis value the snow because it is most tangible form of water—the force of life in this parched part of the world. It is a dream come true, a dream that can be touched and even formed into a snowman or a snowball to throw at friends.

We can play in the softly frozen water with our children and our dogs without fear of drowning anything but our cares. It is a  dream come true, that keeps our minds off the as-yet-unfulfilled dreams of reaching an “Arab Spring” or finding moderates among our neighbors.

Dr. Michael Widlanski grew up playing in the snow in New York’s Central Park. He is, an expert on Arab politics and communications, and  author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat published by  Threshold/Simon and Schuster. A former reporter, correspondent and editor, respectively at The New York Times, Cox Newspapers and The Jerusalem Post, Dr. Widlanski was  Strategic Affairs Advisor in Israel’s Ministry of Public Security and teaches at Bar Ilan University.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Features World Graves of Jewish Pirates in Jamaica Give Caribbean Tourists Taste of Little-Known History

    Graves of Jewish Pirates in Jamaica Give Caribbean Tourists Taste of Little-Known History

    Tour operators are calling attention to Jamaica’s little-known Jewish heritage by arranging visits to historic Jewish sites on the Caribbean island, including a cemetery where Jewish pirates are buried. A report in Travel and Leisure magazine describes the Hunts Bay Cemetery in Kingston, where there are seven tombstones engraved with Hebrew benedictions and skull and crossbones insignia. According to the report, centuries ago, Jewish pirates sailed the waters of Jamaica and settled in Port Royal. The town, once known as “the wickedest city in the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Filmmaker Eyal Resh Embraces the Challenge of Telling Israel’s Story (VIDEO)

    Filmmaker Eyal Resh Embraces the Challenge of Telling Israel’s Story (VIDEO)

    JNS.org – Telling Israel’s story. It’s the specific title of a short film that Eyal Resh created last year. It’s also the theme behind the 27-year-old Israeli filmmaker’s broader body of work. The widely viewed “Telling Israel’s Story” film—directed by Resh for a gala event hosted by the Times of Israel online news outlet—seemingly begins as a promotional tourism video, but quickly evolves to offer a multilayered perspective. “I want to tell you a story about a special place for me,” a young woman whispers […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    Israel Geeks Out: Science, Art and Tech Event Embodies Jewish State’s ‘DNA’

    JNS.org – The entrance to Jerusalem’s Sacher Park was transformed from April 25-27 by a fire-breathing robotic dragon, which flailed its arms and attempted to take flight. The robot, a signature feature at Jerusalem’s first-ever “Geek Picnic,” was one of more than 150 scientific amusements available for the public to experience. This particular dragon was designed by students from Moscow’s Art Industrial Institute in conjunction with the Flacon design factory, said Anatasia Shaminer, a student who helped facilitate the display. Children […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love. CreateSpace, 2015. The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love, is a very interesting novel. Equally a political and romantic thriller, at times a real page-turner, it gets you intimately involved in the dire situation in today’s Syria, as well as in the romantic entanglements of its mostly New York-based characters — whose entanglements just might determine the fate of that dire situation in Syria. Along the way it introduces a really important idea that somehow […]

    Read more →
  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →