Snow coated domes and minarets Friday as a record Middle East storm compounded the suffering of Syrian refugees, sent the Israeli army scrambling to dig out stranded motorists and gave Egyptians a rare glimpse of snow in their capital.
Nearly three feet of snow closed roads in and out of Jerusalem, which is set in high hills, and thousands in and around the city were left without power. Israeli soldiers and police rescued hundreds trapped in their cars by snow and ice. In the West Bank, the branches of olive trees groaned under the weight of snow.
In Cairo, where local news reports said the last recorded snowfall was more than 100 years ago, children in outlying districts capered in white-covered streets, and adults marveled at the sight, tweeting pictures of snow-dusted parks and squares. In other parts of the city, rain and hail rocketed down.
On social media, some joked that the snowfall was the mystical work of Gen. Abdel Fattah Sisi, the military strongman who is the focus of something of a cult of personality among his followers
It’s better than blaming it on Global Warming. It does snow in Jerusalem, but this is still a pretty sizable storm for a country where snow is a pretty casual experience.
In what was described by Channel 2 as the “worst storm in decades,” much of northern Israel was also hit by snow and heavy storms, as were large parts of the West Bank. Israel and the Palestinian Authority were working together to grapple with power outages and other aspects of the storm’s impact.
Israel also providing fuel and gas to Gaza, to keep the electricity on in the Strip, which was grappling with harsh weather conditions including flooding in some areas.
Haifa was hit with its first snowfall in 22 years, according to officials, and Tel Aviv was battered by heavy rain and hail.
The Defense Ministry said it was sending emergency generators and meals to those currently at the centers.
“We are expending every effort to rescue all the people caught in the storm. Only after [the snow] stops will we be able to open the roads,” said Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. “We’re facing a rare storm the likes of which we’ve never seen.”
It would take Global Warming to turn Israel into New England.
Benjamin Netanyahu Friday morning in Jerusalem amid a severe winter storm which has left thousands without power and stranded hundreds of travelers on roads leading to and from the capital.
“I have heard of making guests welcome and feeling at home. This is about as far as I’ve ever seen anything go … giving me a New England snowstorm,” said the US secretary of state as he viewed a snow-covered Old City of Jerusalem with Netanyahu.