View From Netanya

ELKAN’S VIEW 11th March 2015

“See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, and the cooing of doves is heard in our land.” Song of Songs 2:11&12, read on Pesach.

One of the delights of living in Israel is the way that familiar verses from the Bible suddenly come to have a new and powerful meaning, and particularly at the moment the famous verses from the Song of Songs. Winter in Israel is often unpredictable but usually miserable. Israeli buildings are not made for the cold – who wants insulation to keep the heat in during the summer? – and the result is that they are difficult to warm and even more difficult to keep warm. The usual way of heating Israeli houses is by hot air pumped through the air-conditioning system, and at the best this is not terribly efficient, and usually sliding windows don’t fit properly. In the spring summer and autumn, none of this matters but in the winter you know about it.

Some of the winter this year was horrendous, although I was delighted to have missed it. For several days a heavy dust storm lay over Tel Aviv and obscured the sun and its heat; then wind and gales of unusual ferocity, and less than three weeks ago the Judaean hills were subject to an unusually heavy blizzard and snowstorm. When I went to Jerusalem and Efrat recently the snow still lay on the ground, although the temperature had lifted somewhat. Three days later Tel Aviv, Netanya and the coastal plain suddenly had two days when the temperatures reached 26°!

All of this has had the unusual effect of Israelis talking about the weather as if they were British! But things do seem to have changed, weather-wise and the Bible’s view of springtime seems to have unusual force.

And at least it makes a change from talking about the elections!