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Snow-trapped Israel Thawing out

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Sunshine broke through the clouds this morning, swiftly melting the blanket of snow that virtually paralyzed Jerusalem yesterday and kept all but emergency vehicles off the roads. But a new freeze-up was predicted for tonight and motorists were warned again to keep their cars at home.

Yesterday’s inundation of snow forced schools and government offices to close and the Knesset to cancel its morning session. Snow plows cleared the blocked Jerusalem-Tel Aviv road by noon yesterday but travellers were advised to take the train and most did, putting a severe strain on the single track line. Many offices remained closed today despite the thaw and some factories worked at half strength because employes stayed home.

Safad, in the Galilean hills, was worse off than Jerusalem. It was isolated by snow drifts for two days and began to dig itself out only yesterday. Tel Aviv, which normally enjoys a moderate maritime climate, shivered in sub-zero temperatures yesterday but had no snow. The Negev was plagued by floods. One truck driver was reported missing and others had to be rescued from stalled vehicles by army units.

The severe cold wave, more typical of northern Europe than the Middle East, reportedly caused the death of two Arab infants. Many other children suffered frostbite. There was 20 feet of snow on Mt. Hermon and nearly the same on the Golan Heights. Meteorologists said the abnormal weather was due to a vast barometric low over central Russia.

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