Israel’s Heaviest Snowstorm Leaves Jerusalem in the Dark

The snow that blanketed Jerusalem last week delighted children of all ages, but it also left the holy city in darkness and created numerous inconveniences for its residents.

Tens of thousands of Jerusalemites were without electricity for up to four days following power outages created by the snowstorm and the floods that occurred elsewhere in the country after torrential rains.

On Sunday night, 96 hours after the initial blizzard struck high ground throughout the country, several thousand Jerusalem homes were still without heat or light.

Dozens of emergency teams were sent to Jerusalem from other parts of the country following a major outcry from the public.

The extraordinary blackout prompted Israel’s energy minister, Professor Yuval Ne’eman, to announce on Sunday the creation of a special commission of inquiry, under the aegis of Brig. Gen. Doron Rubin.

Ne’eman instructed Rubin to convey findings and recommendations within 10 days.

The Israel Electric Corp. vowed to have every home rigged up again by Monday.

The company, which has a nationwide monopoly on electric power, has been under the gun for its poor performance during and following the storm, which tossed 18 inches of wintry magic on an astounded city.

But the utility company’s chairman, Silvan Shalom, said Sunday that the storm had simply been an unforeseeable natural disaster, in fact the worst the Holy Land has seen in the entire 130 years of recorded readings.

DISPENSATION FOR WORK CREWS

Silvan said the power company had fulfilled its duty to prune and trim trees within six yards of electricity pylons and should not be held to account for the trees that fell onto power lines. The severity of the storms, particularly in and around Jerusalem, could not have been predicted, Shalom said.

The rarity of the storm and the necessity to restore life-sustaining power largely outweighed religious strictures in this holiest of cities.

Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Kolitz gave the electric workers special permission to work through Shabbat, because elderly people were literally in danger of their lives in cold and damp apartments.

Despite this ruling, however, in some haredi or ultra-Orthodox areas, repair crews were not permitted to get on with their work until after nightfall Saturday.

Meanwhile, Israelis braced for more natural hardships. Weather forecasters were warning Sunday of nights of dangerous frost — perilous for crops, as well as for drivers and pedestrians out on slippery roads.

There is one bright side to the foul weather: Israel’s most visible victim of two years of drought, Lake Kinneret, is creeping back across stretches of land that had become exposed. The water level rose 5 inches in 24 hours.

Still, the Kinneret, also known as the Sea of Galilee, must rise another 9.5 feet before Israel’s largest natural reservoir will be considered within normal range.

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