Winter Welcome For Ethiopians


The expression for snow in Amharic, the language of Ethiopia, is yäbärädo bnany — but few Ethiopians have much use for that part of the vocabulary. Until last week. When it snowed in Safed.

The heaviest snowfall in Israel in more than a decade — combined with a soaking rain, strong winds and hail — blanketed much of the northern part of the land, flooding highways, stranding motorists, damaging property, causing power outages, shutting down courts in Jerusalem, raising the water level in the Sea of Galilee, suspending work at the Ashdod and Haifa ports, disrupting train service, sending students home early from school, giving kids a chance to make snowmen and closing the Mount Hermon ski resort.

In Modiin Ilit, volunteers from United Hatzalah performed an emergency delivery of a baby girl in a family’s apartment.

The Chief Rabbinate issued a prayer of thanksgiving for the deluge, which ended a drought in the country, and in mountainous Safed, a group of new immigrants, among the Falash Mura Jews who recently arrived from their African homeland as part of Operation Dove’s Wings, played in the snow at a Jewish Agency absorption center where they are learning to become Israelis. Class was cancelled as the immigrants took in their first snowfall; Jewish Agency employees provided heaters and hot soup.

Snow is rare in Ethiopia. Addis Ababa, the capital, averages zero days of snow every month; in Gondar, in the northern part of the country, the average low temperature in the coldest winter months is 50 degrees.

Snow isn’t quite as rare in Israel. It comes to Jerusalem every few years, bringing newspaper headlines of “Yerushalayim Shel Lavan” (Jerusalem of White).

The newcomers from Ethiopia will experience this in future years. Hopefully, they’ll never need to learn how to say “blizzard” in Amharic.