Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Yom Yerushalayim

Today is Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, celebrating the 40th anniversery of Israel's miraculous victory over the combined attack of the armies of about 20 Arab states in a period of just six days in 1967 CE. The cardinal event of that entire war was the reunification of Jerusalem, finally giving the Jewish people the freedom to go to the Western Wall, and the taking of Judaism's holiest site, the Temple Mount, after 1900 years of foreign domination. It's a day of major celebratons, especially in the holy city, and Machon Meir was going on a tour.

The day started out hot and dry, like a normal day in May, right before summer.

I got to the yeshivah hoping to take some classes. When I sat down at the table in front of the beit midrash (study hall,) I realized, after a few minutes, that nobody was coming. Fearing I had gotten the time wrong and everyone had already missed the tour, I called one of the Rabbis. It turns out everyone had gone to the Kotel (western wall) the night before, and stayed until sunrise, and was now asleep. Classes had been cancelled, so I had four hours to kill.

I called the Mazda dealership, as I have done twice weekly for the last three weeks.
"Has the Mazda 3 come in yet so I can take a test drive?"
"When is it going to be there?"
"Maybe today."
I've heard that one before. Like every time I call.

So I went walking downtown, shopping for books, extension cords, and playing cards. It was getting a bit cloudier, but no signs of rain yet, so I decided to walk back, when I received a phone call.
"It's here."
"Yes. When can you come in?"
"Can I come in tomorrow? Friday perhaps?"
"No, we only have it for one day."
I had one hour before our tiyul left.
"I'll be there in 15 minutes. I'm taking a cab."

Mazda 3 Hatchback. You can't see it now, but there's drool on my keyboard.

The test drive went well, the car was fun and sporty. It was drizzling a bit, and I managed to make it back to the dealership, and then catch a cab over to the Yeshivah, arriving only six minutes late, and I hopped on the bus just before it pulled out. But by now, the rain was coming down hard.

As we drove along, up Mount Scopus, the sky just opened up and a torrential downpour like nothing I'd ever seen came pounding down. The roads here are cut straight out of the rock. Looking to either side of the bus, huge waterfalls of muddy rainwater came pounding onto the road. We continued uphill. Looking across the center divider to the opposite lane, I was shocked. The entire two-lane road had become a rushing rapids with at least five inches of water. The current looked strong enough to knock a person over.

Cars pull up on the center divider to avoid being swept downhill.

Manholes blow their covers as the storm drainage systems overflow.

The water overtook everything in its path

This is a somewhat blurry photograph. See that lamppost in the middle? Look what's behind it. That's the roof of a car peeking out over about four foot deep floodwaters. About a dozen cars stuck on the road were completely submerged. What's really amazing is that this is near the top of the hill.

Our bus driver gesticulates and screams at passing vehicles, trying to get control of the situation.

Unfortunately, due to the incredibly inclement weather, we had to cancel our tour. You couldn't really drive anywhere anyway. So I had to walk back to the bus station and head home. Better luck next time.

Needless to say, this is extremely unusual weather for Jerusalem, especially this time of year (it's almost summer.)

Some kids from a yeshivah high school didn't let the rain get them down, dancing and singing next to the central bus station.

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