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Monday, 18 January 2021

Heavy snowfall turns Jerusalem white

Jerusalem is transformed into a winter wonderland after heavy overnight snow, rare in an otherwise temperate region

AFP , Thursday 10 Jan 2013
A pedestrian walks on a snow-covered street in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of A-tur January 10, 2013. ( Photo: Reuters)
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As temperatures plummeted, the bitter winds and rain that have battered the Middle East since Sunday turned into snow, blanketing the Holy Land white, and closing schools, shops and businesses as much of the transport infrastructure ground to a halt.

As dawn broke, at least 10 centimetres (four inches) of snow had settled in Jerusalem, which lies at an altitude of about 800 metres above sea level, giving its pine-covered hills the unusual aspect of a ski resort.

With no letup in the snowfall, city officials cancelled all bus routes but said the light rail would remain operational and free of charge until 1200 GMT in a bid to encourage people to avoid using their private vehicles.

Across the city, schools were closed for the day, with thousands of gleeful children — and no shortage of adults — taking to the streets to pelt each other with snowballs or to build snowmen.

With snow a rarity in the normally temperate Middle East, many resorted to using trays or bin bags to slide down some of Jerusalem's many steep hills, although some could be seen dragging sledges through the streets.

A handful of visitors also turned up from Tel Aviv, where snow is almost unheard of, to join in the winter fun, reaching Jerusalem despite the closure of the main highway connecting the two cities.

Snow ploughs were out clearing the main roads, which had also been gritted, but very few vehicles could be seen on the streets following pleas by the city council for the public not to use their cars.

With less than two weeks until Israelis vote 22 January in a general election, campaign plans were put on hold for the day.

The winding streets of Jerusalem's Old City were almost completely deserted, with only a handful of shops open for business.

Forecasters said the snow would continue to fall until Thursday afternoon.

As the winter storm entered its fifth day, power cuts left around 20,000 homes without electricity, Israeli officials said, many of them in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

The scenes in Jerusalem were played out across much of Israel and Palestine, with the West Bank city of Ramallah also making the most of a rare snow day with children and even policemen seen playing in the streets, an AFP correspondent said.

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