national trauma week

autumn leaves in winter

We have a saying here, when someone tells us something that is no longer relevant. We say, ‘that’s as interesting as last year’s snow’. But this week, despite a rather aggravated case of political heebie jeebies, with national politicians changing parties after each fresh edition of an opinion poll. All of a sudden… under a blue sky of momentary sunny weather in the midst of winter, normal, rational men and women lost all interest in anything but the weather. It started slowly at first… If I remember correctly, last weekend, there were a couple of comments made… you know… ‘such beautiful autumn weather, and next week it’ll probably snow’. The sort of idle talk you might hear as someone reluctantly looks for something, and then gazes through the window at the colorful leaves left on a tree.


But later there were solid rumors. Not just the ‘I heard Jake say’, but those rumors that make you stop and take stock: the report that the assistant director of the Jerusalem sanitation department demanded all snow removal machines be checked to see if they had a full tank of gas in their tanks. It only took a few hours until every news item had to find its place in line on national news behind the weather report.

mini graffiti found on a schoolyard fence

By evening, when the weather appeared at the top of the Channel 1 news roundup, it was in fact reported that the coming snow fall, this week, might exceed that of last year. Immediately after that hit the airways, a silence moved through private homes from the Negev desert to Mount Hermon. Around the country, fathers looked at mothers, mothers looked at children. And children rolled their eyes heavenward; our version of the ‘gasp heard around the world’.

I like to keep warm with some hot kube soup in winter

Now, those readers who live somewhere outside of Israel may not remember last year’s snow. I think most of us Israelis would find that completely excusable. After all, we’re a very small country, and we always have one kind of trouble or another. Why should our little troubles interest the big boys on the international stage of events? Of course you don’t remember. But there isn’t a cat over the age of two in Jerusalem, or a man, woman or child in all of Israel over the age of five, who can’t recall all the details of last year’s snowfall.

and how wonderful that artichokes have come into season…

Needless to say that it snowed last year. And it could be that the clever fellow in charge of keeping the snow removal equipment ready for action, had heard that the price of benzene was about to go down, and wanted to impress his superiors that he was the sort who knew how to save a penny. Of course, if it had just been that, the whole incident would probably be forgotten by now. But it got kind of cold, and everyone turned on their electric heaters at the same time. And then when the electricity failed, everyone called their closest friends to see if it had happened to them too. That paralyzed the cell phone system. And then, when a few hundred cars got stuck on the main highway to Jerusalem because of ice and snow, with bob sleds and skis sticking out of a wide variety of hybrid passenger cars, the truckers bringing food to the supermarkets were unable to think of anything better to do than take a nap on that cot they have behind the driver’s cabin.

one of my neighbors keeps all of his emergency equipment out on the balcony

Not only were all the shelves in the supermarket left vacant, but those who insisted on buying those items left behind in the mad rush to stay supplied, were further frustrated when they got to the cash register. Because all the communication lines were down, and it was impossible to check whether credit cards were stolen, or invalid because of pathological buying habits on the part of the consumer. And so, the clerks were asking for real money! As a loyal Israeli, I hate to say it, but that meter plus snowstorm last year led to confusion, chaos, and then out and out pandemonium, as my fellow citizens began to realize that they couldn’t go on with their everyday lives in the middle of a snow storm.

what could be better for an evening meal than Portobello mushrooms

And now, just the memory of what happened last year, was enough to give rise to an aftershock, a year later. Of course, it’s easy to laugh at others. So I feel an obligation to disclose my own share of disquiet. Remember the tablet I bought recently, in an attempt to be just as up to date as all the kids? And how I went out of my mind trying to peck out messages with two fingers instead of ten? That was after trying to write an article describing my impressions of the ‘ever growing gap between rich and poor’ on my smartphone, and discovered too late that the phone was so small I couldn’t find it after putting it aside for dinner, and then had trouble reading what I myself had written on its small screen.

Shimon - portobello
and here I am taking the above picture, captured by Chana

So now, equipped with a rather addictive tablet that I had learned to use after infinite suffering… and despite the fact that its batteries are able to keep it functioning for nine hours without recharge… I stopped using it altogether so that it would remain fully charged when the electricity failed in the upcoming snow storm. That is to say, I too was taken in by the mass hysteria, and willing to make any sacrifice to avoid the consequences of last year’s snow!

one of my friends recently complained after seeing my dining room table on the blog without its customary bottle of whisky. So here you are, two bottles, and my tablet squeezed in, on the bottom right.

Dare I mention that the anti-climax was more than a little disappointing? A special train shuttle had been scheduled to ferry tourists from the ‘House of the Rising Sun’ village to Jerusalem every 20 minutes after the highways would all be frozen. The cellular companies invested heavily in new equipment to avoid the embarrassment of a breakdown in service. And drivers were asked to abandon the public avenues and thoroughfares so that emergency vehicles could administer to those incapacitated by the storm. All the supermarkets increased their wares by seven fold, and the customers did not disappoint. The sale of gas heaters would have topped all peaks of the last ten years had not department stores run out of those heaters to sell. We whipped ourselves into a frenzy… and then… nothing went wrong. Each of us felt whipped by the cruelty of nature. There was snow. But then there was rain that washed it away. All the preparations seemed wasted. It was a disaster.


57 responses to “national trauma week

  1. Very nice to use the emergency equipment as balcony decorations.

  2. A really enjoyable read Shimon, illustrated beautifully, summing up the human condition perfectly. What a fickle lot we are.

  3. Shimon, I love the way you weave your tales. ❤

  4. A wonderful storyteller you are. I enjoyed the beautiful photographs throughout and had a chuckle at the end. Such a disaster, indeed.

  5. Ha ha ha! At first you could have been talking about England, all that business of the weather being far more important than international news. What lovely photos, rich and deep, such an appreciation of the food. I enjoyed them very much, as well as your comments on the idiocies of human nature.

    • Here we usually hear way too much about politics. So it was kind of a relief to hear news about the weather for a change. Thanks so much, Gill, for your appreciation of my food photos. Wishing you warmth in winter.

  6. Enjoyed the reading, Mr. Shimon. Thank you for sharing the mixed stories. Btw, your my neighbors did a great job of putting his emergency equipment out on the balcony. Have a wonderful weekend!

  7. Oh this is hilarious, Shimon. Thank you for making me laugh.

  8. The weather condition is different (snow for you, hurricanes for us) but the human response is so familiar. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, all of Houston sat at the television, transfixed. When Hurricane Rita followed, right on Katrina’s heels, all of Houston hit the roads, clogged the roads, and turned the evacuation itself into a disaster. More than a few people sat on the freeways for a few hours, then turned back and went home. As a friend said, “Facing a hurricane at home was preferable to facing one in my car.”

    Of course the media don’t help. They love a good story, and they have the ability to make a possible quarter-inch of snow sound like Armageddon. Right now, it’s 40F degrees here, and there are vague suggestions that anyone who ventures out might freeze to death. Of course it’s not likely, but one can’t be too careful!

    • Yes, I think a lot of our troubles are connected to the business of reporting the news. I remember, years ago, there used to be a real effort made to give the impression of objectivity. Now the main objective is seeing to it that the viewers or listeners will come back after the commercial And news stories often seem completely out of proportion. A hurricane does seem like a scary experience though. I’ve never been up close to one. Stay safe, and wishing you a very pleasant winter, shoreacres.

  9. Funny funny story! But what, please, is “kube” soup?

    • The soup is made with vegetables and beets, and has a very slightly sour taste… spicy as well. And always served with dumplings. Glad you enjoyed the laugh with me, Nina.

  10. Oh I loved this one….and laughed out loud several times….You have captured so perfectly the madness that ensues at the slightest hint of our modern day world shutting down for even a moment in time!:)
    Enjoy the whiskey and great to see you looking so well. Have a wonderful weekend. xx

    • Yes it is so good to share a laugh, especially on these cold days, Janet. I remember that last year I thought it marvelous that everything just stopped and we could watch and listen to nature. But it turns out that most people think it’s a nightmare, even if the show stops for a moment. Well, things went pretty much as normal… and now they’ll have to find another issue to get all excited about. I’m enjoying myself. And think of you at times, when using the tablet. I remember that you discovered it before me. Very light weight, and quite handy. Wishing you a very beautiful weekend, my dear Janet. xxx

  11. Great post and yes, you’ve captured perfectly human nature. Also great images and love your neighbours’ balcony.Also wondering about the Kube soup…

    • One of the few advantages we Jews have had, being in exile and scattered around the world, is that we picked up a number of good recipes while absorbing other cultures. The Kube soup comes from Iraq originally, and it’s a spicy soup made on the basis of cabbage or beets. The dumplings are very good too. And it warms the chest on a cold day. Thanks, Olga.

  12. Hee hee! 🙂

  13. Hahahahahaha….Brilliant….” All the preparations seemed wasted. It was a disaster.”
    This was such a pleasure to read, in fact I read it several times as I enjoyed it so much, what a fantastic writer you are, I loved how you built the story…and your humour!
    I also loved the pics within pics, the one of the mushrooms, then you photographing the mushrooms….btw, what is in the kube soup? Good to see your whiskey back where it belongs. Thanks for such a wonderful post!xxx

    • Well, it would be even better to share that whisky with you, Dina. The kube soup is a spicy soup with dumplings, usually based on either beets or cabbage, and when eaten steaming hot on a cold rainy or snowy day, it really does warm us up. So glad we were able to enjoy a laugh together. xxx

  14. Delightful pictures. I thought the neighbor’s implements intriguing wall art. We actually had snow in the Valley of the Sun, last month. Unfortunately, I missed it. I wasn’t in the right part of town. Your storytelling left me laughing. Fickle nature not obliging the need for calamity. 😉

    • It is amazing how much we invest in drama… sometimes even when the drama is rather short lived. After all, it’s romantic to eat by candle light… and the children love having a few days out of school, playing in the snow. But it seems we easily get addicted to whatever routine we’re in. And any change is threatening. I think it was worst for the cat, having to go out in the snow in order to take care of the call of nature. But for the adults, the idea of public utilities being unavailable even for a short time brought on hysteria. Now we’re back to normal. Thanks for the comment, Judy.

  15. But you were prepared! I love the photo of you being photographed as you photographed!

    • You should have seen those beautiful portobello mushrooms. They were huge. And perfect for stuffed mushrooms. Though I have to admit, I got as big a kick photographing them, as I did in eating. Thanks for sharing in the fun, Loisa.

  16. Marvelous to read this in the midst of conditions that I usually pay attention to which are not snow! I love all those sort of preparations gone wrong. It recalls to me living in Atherton, England, near Manchester. It snowed and snowed. All the trains in England stopped. All the highways were snowed in and closed.

    I said to my good friend, Trevor Jones, a folks and jazz radio program host who had given the program up to ride around on a motorcycle doing youth ministry in the UK, ” When will they bring out the snow plows?”

    Trevor said, ” Oh, my dear Meg ,there are no snow plows.”

    I said,” Oh. this must be an unusual blizzard !. It does not usually snow here.”

    Trevor smiled and said, ” Oh, actually this happens every year.”

    I said in consternation , ” Trevor. why then are there no snow plows?!!!!”

    Trevor replies, ” Oh, Meg. it might not happen next year.”

    Ah, the British. Not at all like US citizens who must overcome nature at every possible turn. It might not happen next year! with love to you Shimon, and to Noga too,, Meg

    • What a wonderful surprise, Meg… coming back to visit the blog and finding a comment by you among the comments. I know you have your reservations when it comes to using the internet, so I see this as a great honor. Moreover, I love the story from your visit to Atherton. In our case, though, we do keep all kinds of emergency equipment ready. But still, we are often taken by surprise. And then, when something goes wrong, they usually set up some sort of committee to look into what went wrong. They study what happened for the longest time. And then recommendations are made. The recommendations are usually forgotten immediately… until the next emergency. Noga sends her love, as do I. So good to get a comment from you. Best wishes for a very pleasant winter by the sea.

  17. Outside of Washington DC, where I live, we go through the same pre-snow hysterics, though arguably with greater frequency. People here sun to the stores for toilet paper, bread and milk at the first hint of snow. Plows line the streets, accidents occur in anticipation of accidents that might happens should it snow and the anxiety in the air is thicker than the anticipated precipitation. And more often than not – nothing. Maybe a dusting. Maybe rain.

    • It sounds like the way your people deal with an emergency is very much the same as ours. All we need to do is take a step back, and the whole thing looks like a farce. But these scenes do seem to repeat themselves. Wishing you a warm and pleasant winter, Mimi. Thanks very much for your comment.

  18. What an enjoyable read! I was following you word by word in anticipation of the storm!
    PS: the soup looks delicious and the artichokes and mushrooms inspire me to cook!
    Love your still life table pic as well as the portrait of you, taking it.
    I’m so glad I found your blog. You make me smile: )

    • It’s a pleasure meeting you too, Lia. And a great opportunity to about New York. We see it in the movies. But you manage to to give us the personal experience, which is entertaining as well. Thanks for coming by, and glad you enjoyed the post.

  19. Better to have it and not needed than need it and not have it! Good story.

    • Yes, I agree with you completely, Fatima. Though I have to say that I find something charming about having our normal world take ‘time out’ for a couple of days because of the weather. Our world is so full of artificial devices, that it is both entertaining and educational to get back to basics now and then. But that could be the child in me. Thanks for the comment.

  20. The British experience of snow is also often accompanied by ‘hysteria’ in the newspapers promising the most appalling weather. And then barely two inches of snow falls but it is sufficient to bring the country to a standstill. Trains won’t run, drivers inexperienced of driving in snow, skid, collide and block roads, and hundreds spend the night trapped in ‘snowdrifts’ on roads that are blocked. The British are very good at creating a first class drama out of a small fall of snow. So far this winter there has been no snow. Plenty of time yet for the drama to arrive!

    • As an outsider, Andy, it is hard not to notice the fascination that the English have with the weather. But we could say, that in all of our activities as human beings, there are proper portions to everything… and too much of something, or too little… is enough to give cause for hysteria. Thanks for your comment.

  21. So the lack of disaster was disastrous. Sounds great to me. After the worst winter I remember (anywhere, ever) last year, we haven’t had any snow worth mentioning in New England. Granted it is only January, so there’s plenty of winter left. But if we manage to get all the way to spring without being hip dip in white weather? No snow? No ice? No problem!

    • I have noticed your lack of enthusiasm for winter weather, Marilyn. But also seen some rather fine photos you’ve taken of just those conditions. Wishing you a warm and pleasant winter inside… with just a few short jaunts to appreciate the drama. Thanks for the comment.

  22. Oh dear! Haha, quite easy to get caught up in the hype. I’ve never lived in a place where it’s snowed, but I generally have a good nose for rain… On a side note, good work on figuring out a tablet!

    • Yes, the hype is what does us in most of the time… even if it isn’t advertisement. For some reason, I found the tablet one of the hardest contraptions ever, to get used to. I think it’s because I’ve been writing on a keyboard with all ten fingers for more than fifty years… But now that I’ve gotten used to it, it’s quite a handy instrument. Always good to hear from you, Jess.

  23. I like your hat especially the color.And the artichoke photograph.A good sense of humor is always very attractive.Thank you.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post, Robin. I have a number of those knitted caps, all of them a dark blue. But this one is the most comfortable of all. I usually wear it inside though, because I’m a little embarrassed by the color. Thanks for your comment.

  24. Well, I’m a bit late on reading this, and not enough time to read all the comments. Must have been exciting, that snow storm. What is Kube? I’m curious how you eat your artichoke. i live maybe a little over an hour from where Jack Daniels wiskey is made. But I don’t drink it. Maybe a taste once a year. (I prefer tequila). Love the photos. and finally…bottom line is…You Can’t Trust Mother Nature.
    Stay safe over there. The crazies are out and about.

    • Hi Bob, it took me quite a while to get back to this early post, and I see I just answered your PS and missed your main comment… Kube is a sort of pocket made of dough… I think it’s called a dumpling in English. The soup though has a lot of spices, and can really warm you up on a cold day. We eat artichokes, leaf by leaf, dipping them in different sort of dips to add a little zip to it. But stuffed artichokes are considered quite a treat. Chopped meat is secreted in the center of the heart, and they are baked in the oven. As for drinking, my friend, I love tequila too. But my favorite is bourbon whisky.

  25. I forgot to ask….is personal carry of a weapon acceptable there?

    • Unfortunately, my dear Bob, because we’ve had to deal with physical violence against us for a very long time, it is quite acceptable for both men and women to carry a hand gun, When I hear arguments against it (not in my country, but elsewhere), I am always reminded of the surgeon. I tell folks, both the surgeon and the stick up artist carry knives. It’s not the tool but the intention.

  26. So funny–you are a fine storyteller. I remember all the fuss and predictions of worldwide chaos and massive systems failure when we changed over to a new millennium, and nothing happened then either.
    Best wishes to you, Shimon.

    • Thanks so much, Naomi. It is always especially meaningful to hear such a compliment from another storyteller. And I do love the way you tell a tale yourself. Yes, I remember those dire predictions as we approached the millennium… and it seemed to me at the time, that a lot of it was wishful thinking. Now we’ll have to go and find something else to worry about!

  27. Those weather alerts certainly get people anxious. I watch the same things here, but it is better to be safe than sorry. Sometimes we are lucky when the bad weather misses us.Right now there is a snow storm coming up our east coast wiith up to three feet of snow and 70 mph winds predicted. We will get the edge of it here in Ohio but not sure how much that will be. Hope not much!

    • I would certainly agree with that one, Bev. Better safe than sorry. Though it does seem as if the big disasters always take us by surprise. No matter how many safety catches we might have… they get past, and clobber us. And then the rest of the time, we’re suffering from post traumatic stress. Thanks for the comment.

  28. I enjoyed this very much, Shimon. First we are caught underprepared, so we over prepare, swinging back and forth like a pendulum. We are an amusing bunch.

    • yes, yearstricken, it seems to me that much of our history, as human beings on this planet… is as predictable as the swing of the pendulum, from one extreme to the other.

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