Veyakhel: Jerusalem in White


You’re not going to believe this.

Just coming off my words last week about the Eastern US snowstorm, off I go to Israel, and guess what? A major snowfall hits Jerusalem – one not seen in 50 years – dropping over 30 centimeters (around one foot) of those heavenly crystals.

Divine Providence dictates that I share with you my encounter with Jerusalem dressed in white – a mystical experience unparalleled by anything I have ever seen.

As we dig out from layers of white
And we sing praise in words of light
(that seem somewhat tight, if not trite)
Off I fly to Yerusholayim
On an evening flight
Only to see it covered in mayim
With no sky in sight

Sheets of rain greet me
As I enter the Old City
Rain, rain, what a pity
Little did I know the lessons so pretty
And witty
I would learn and see
From the weather in this gritty city

(not to mention how water every itty bitty
is in this country so nitty gritty
a blessing of grand enormity)

Friday it rained
Shabbat it poured
In the afternoon it waned
While snow was being stored
In the heavens over this city of the Lord

It’s been many years, I’m told
since we’ve had such rain and bitter cold
But this is just the beginning of my stay in Jerusalem
With the best yet to come

[So little time
To share the message of white Yerusholime
I must apologize for the crime
That from here on my words may not all rhyme
Yet I will try to make it chime
If not mime]

Sunday was silent and clear
The quiet before the storm
Monday morning – oh my dear
The heavens were asunder torn
No place to keep warm
Trees, men, birds crouched in fear

Mixed rain, hail and snow
Sleet, slush and wo…
You see, Jerusalem closes down
With no plow in stow
To tow and mow
Cabbies just say no
I guess they just expect us to… row

Traffic jams the hills of Jerusalem
Everyone’s rushing home
Bread and food are selling out
As the city is ready to go numb

And then, on Monday night, it finally comes
A glorious snow blankets Jerusalem
Falling in a silent hum
At first only some
Only that much greater to become

I awake at four
see 5 inches or more
Yes, it’s only 4 AM
But how could I miss the Divine realm
So I wander down overwhelm
to see the wall braided in a mystical helm

Majestic, awesome —
There are no words
To capture the falling herds
Zeh Shaar HaShomayim
The mount of Yerusholayim
A gate to heaven
As Jacob said leaving the fountain of seven

As morning breaks
And the first (netz) minyan wakes
The snow and its flakes
Assume a new take

What’s so special you may strum
About the snow in Jerusalem
Why all this pomp and drum
About an event so humdrum

Something very strange in this city of towers
The weather, the snow which falls like flowers
Only to be seen in the wee dawn hours

As you look at the Temple Mount
The heavens open up and surmount
All that is around
Suddenly you see blue sky
Peeking out from threatening, billowing
Dark gray clouds

Is this the gate to heaven opening up
Do I see Yerusholayim crying

The snow falls like feathered bricks
Heavy at times, it even sticks
Yet every hour or so
It abates to a fall very slow
The ground melts even as it accumulates snow
Only to begin falling again
With even greater intensity like an ocean floe

Clouds move quickly
It’s as if everything is traveling in fast motion

I never saw anything quite like it
A strip of white light
Sandwiched between two bands of clouds
Three layers
Dark above
Dark below
Light between

A lull in the storm
Snow paused on hold
Suddenly the lower band releases its load
Flakes begin streaming down

I see a frown on a clown
Who thought he’d been around
Partying on the town
Only to find out
that he’s always been drowned
While above rises the crown
Like a bridal gown

Is this the message of Jerusalem
Are the layers really gates
For our prayers

They open up in the snow
only to let us enter
On a secret hardly seen
In the universe’s center

When it snows in New York
It is steady and strong
No breaks no openings
The snow buries the city
Icy streets keep it frozen in place

Not so in Jerusalem
The gate to heaven is telling us something…
The Wall that is usually Wailing
In the snow seems to be sailing

Have you ever wondered what makes a gate unique
Snow in Jerusalem can give you a peek
Jerusalem is a portal between opposites
A gate that can’t wait
And won’t sate
A controller of fate
Obliterates hate

Threatening skies over the Wall in Jerusalem
Captures the story of our lives
Casting shadows over the Wall
The mosques and the churches
Darkness descends over Ishmael, Esau and Jacob

The center of the universe is astorm
Dark clouds hover above
Yet there is a crack
A break
An opening
This is the heavenly gate
Through which our prayers elevate

Snow is a message from home
A mystical transmission
The one of ancient years sits on his throne
His garments are white like snow

The gate is beckoning us
Welcoming us in
Allowing us a glimpse
Into the beyond
Are we listening to its call?

And the people are the people
Children frolic about
pelting snowballs aflight
Building snowmen so bright

The charedim trudge through the streets
Plastic garbage bags
Cover expensive hats
Ironic and funny
As they often hover above rags

And the soldiers oh the soldiers
Nineteen year old innocents
Abruptly thrown into war and death
How unnatural

The soldiers clad in green fatigues
Wielding Uzis
Are having a snowball fight near the Wall
Gleefully laughing, like little children

The white covers all the crimson
They may tragically witness in their young lives
May all our red sins be cleansed white
Like the snow that arrives

White tears of Yerusholayim
Covered in mayim
The tear engulfs the fear
A respite hopefully forever
From all the crying

It snows all Tuesday
The thirteenth of Adar One
With bizarre moments of glimpses of sun

But even as the snow falls
And the blizzard intensifies
The warm earth works its way
Melting, leaving slushy puddles

Apparently the earth upon which
The Temple stood
Retains its warm sanctity
Not allowing the snow to quite freeze
A frozen death
Only allowing enough of the snowy message
From above
To remind us
Of the gateway, the door
The entry through which we pray

A dance between heaven and earth
Death and life
Ice and fire

I will be for you a wall of fire
Never tire
Jerusalem of fire
Not for hire
Not stuck in the mire
Nothing is a no
In Jerusalem of snow

My flight
is scheduled for Tuesday night
Nesher won’t travel
The tires need gravel
Some regal eagle!
I try to inveigle
Wheedle and finagle
A way out of the city so regal

Finally the highway opens up
I barely make it out
Shlep my luggage with a blush
Through water and slush
Snow turned mush
By Jerusalem’s lush
Feeling the crush
In a total flush
I run into a taxi far from plush
only to have a brush
With the cabdriver in a mad rush
Who doesn’t stop to fuss

The snow is still agush
As we descend the mountain slush
It turns to flurries as we reach Abu Gosh
And finally to rain at Beit Shemesh

As we enter the airport
One final reminder
Of brilliant lightning
and thunder
Not snow whitening
But still quite frightening
As it dropped a dramatic down pouring

We have arrived due course
From the center and the source
Met with winds of gale force
With lessons learned perforce

And even as we sit on the runway
Seatbelts fastened, antifreeze aspray
We hear the pilot’s announcements
Due to severe weather disturbance
And atmospheric (barometric) turbulence
We are delayed once again

I feel like Jonah on the boat
Am I not heeding my call
Escaping my mission
Yes, I visited the wall
But is there more…
That I need to be reminded

I commit, I yell, commit
Let me go
I am out of the pit
And will carry the snow
Wherever I go

As we climb the sky
I look out the window on high
Straining myself to see the clouds that fly
Over Jerusalem’s eye

I let out a sigh
My oh my
I wonder why
The clouds from above
Seem to wave goodbye

Are they that sly
Those clouds that cry
Much as a I try
I cannot lie
I feel I must pry
Into the Jerusalem sky
Dropping snow so spry

Do the clouds separate
Or unite
Heaven and earth

I wonder why

In this great city
A thin line emerges
Where paradoxes meet
Just between
Dry and wet
Snow and rain
Sky and land
Heaven and earth

It truly gives hope to know
That in this locked world
There is after all
An opening, a door,
Through which we can soar

It makes me roar
When I hear it pour

And what is more
Is that whatever your score
Whether you are bubbling or a bore
Sweet or sore
Rich or poor

The snow spilling out the gate
Equalizes our fate
In one spate
Never too late
With a clean or unclean slate
No need to wait
Transcending trait
Providing all that’s great
On a silver plate

So, goodbye Jerusalem
The world in microcosm
City of extreme

Oh, Jerusalem
Now I must go
Not to leave your snow
But to bring your glorious show
To all who know
Even those that are slow or low
Or don’t yet know
And even your foe

I want you to know
That though I must go
I will share your glow
To make all things grow
And inanimate things flow
So let your wind blow
As children snowballs throw
Always know
That we are but dough
In need of snow
To become alive and aflow

So this is my hymn
To white Jerusalem
Thank you Yerusholayim
for your nurturing mayim
And your life affirming chayim

I return with my feet
To walk your white street
I reaffirm that whomever I meet
I will commit to greet
And entreat
To listen to your call
And enter you open gate
Only forever to elevate

So lift your eyes to shomayim
Over Yerusholayim
and let it bring the mayim
Into your chayim

And I hereby am mesayem
With a toast of l’chaim
To white Yerusholayim



So what do you know
As I arrive in New York
And say hello
I hear it will snow

What an end to the tableau
That the Jerusalem snow
Is being brought back to the hemisphere below
To raise the plateau

Who is following whom
Is the snow following me
Or I the snow

Who can know?


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Glenda Blake
16 years ago

I loved your article. I am sorry you missed so much in Israel, but I think from the sound of your writing, you gained much also. I love being in Jerusalem when it snows. I wish I could have been there also at this time.
Your poem made me homesick for Israel.
Glenda Blake

Meira Lerman
16 years ago

After all that had been said about our City of Dream, who could add something better than singing a Glorious nonsense about its Royal Beauty! What a great Oxymoron:
“The wall that is usually Wailing
In snow seems to be sailing” or
“And the soldiers oh the soldiers…”
And where did you find all these words in our super-rational English:
“I try to inveigle
Wheedle and Finagle
A way out of the city so regal”
Finally sacramental moments of your visit were not diminished but were multiplied their glory with thousands of reflections in a nonsense broken mirror. Thank you for taking us with you to this wonderful journey.

The Meaningful Life Center