Shalom and Welcome to this week’s In Israel Blog
Today is Tu B’Shvat – the 15th day of the month of Shvat – celebrated as the new year for trees. It marks the beginning of the end of winter. The main celebrations focus on eating lots of fruit; and many (children) find time to plant a tree in one of Israel’s many forests. The celebrations get a bit extended with activities spreading into the weekend – providing a perfect excuse to enjoy nature. The first signs of spring are spotting blossom and the emergence of wild anemones.
So what of the Israeli winter so far? It is warmer, much warmer than most of Europe, but it feels like winter. January was apparently the rainiest since 1947 (29 days of rain). Israelis follow the rise and fall of the Kinneret, with the passion of sports and current events.
In January the Kinneret rose over 50cm and so far in February another 11cm. This means that it has just crossed over the lower red line for the first time this winter. Another 4m or so are required to reach the upper red line (which counts as full.) We hope that there is lots more rain on the way and that there will also be plenty more water as streams flow from the Galilee and Golan to the Kinneret. Skiing conditions on Hermon are also good at the moment and the snow melt should also add a few more centimetres to the Kinneret.
According to a report on the radio we now source a large fraction of our water from purified sea water ; with this expected to rise over the next few years. This will hopefully give some respite to the Kinneret and other natural sources and perhaps help to get things back in balance.
Winter time is also running season in Israel. The Tiberias Marathon has been and gone, but the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv Marathons are scheduled for March. Whatever distance you choose, or even just watching these are fun, events for everyone. See Israeli Marathon Time
Occasionally, we get to see aspects of the real caring Israel. Recently, I spent some time trying to find the person who damaged my car with their delivery truck. I wandered round shops and cafes in the area asking if anybody had seen anything. The effort people took with their own time and using their own phones was really heart-warming and reminded me of how special this country can be. If you are in the Emek Refaim area in Jerusalem then I recommend Café Café and the Supermarket HaMoshava (by the swimming pool) – they have managers and staff that really care – thanks!
On the subject of transport – a couple of weeks ago the Jerusalem Light Railway moved into the next stage of deployment. Bus routes in Jerusalem have been substantially altered and where possible now focus on feeding the railway. Also note that you need to buy and punch your ticket and that the inspectors are very focused on people getting it right.
Finally, news of a couple of archaeological finds that have recently been announced.
In Ashdod there is a hill known as Jonah’s Hill – and legends associate it with the tomb of the prophet Jonah (Yona) – he of the big fish fame. Excavations have revealed a large fortress and proof of life here in the First Temple period (the time of Jonah.)
Further north excavations are taking place outside Akko And a Byzantine period bread stamp was discovered. Archaeologists speculate that the stamp was to guarantee that the bread supplied to nearby Akko was certified as kosher!
Le’Hitraot from Jerusalem