Galilee Diary: Siege
Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. And in the ninth year of his reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar moved against Jerusalem with his whole army. He besieged it and they build towers against it all around.
– II Kings 25:1
Whenever I visit the US and happen to turn on the TV, I am always struck by the prominence given to the weather forecast. The stations compete for ratings with photogenic meteorologists, who have to stand outside in uncomfortable weather to deliver live reports with authentic backdrops. Many minutes are devoted to maps and animations and statistics. Apparently, lots of people are very interested in this information, which is actually kind of nice, as perhaps it indicates a desire to be close to the natural phenomena from which city dwellers have become somewhat alienated. And of course, in most of North America, the weather can vary greatly from day to day, and extremes are fairly common, from tornadoes to heat waves to blizzards - so often the forecasters do play an important role in people's lives.
Here, perhaps because conditions are more stable, the weather forecast is usually just a laconic "tomorrow will be pretty much the same as today," or "slight warming in the next few days," etc. Our forecasters are not celebrities. Therefore, when we do have a spell of extreme or unusual weather, it is a cause of great excitement. Last week we experienced a "hundred year storm," with several days of bitter cold (even below freezing in some places), heavy and constant rain (hence flooding), and heavy snow in the mountains (especially Jerusalem and Safed). The media of course fed the excitement (or sometimes hysteria); and as soon as the skies had begun to clear, moved on to calls for investigation of the failures of the various authorities and institutions to be prepared and/or to respond properly. No one could talk of anything else, and Palestine and Iran were pushed off the front page for a brief while, as reporters interviewed people who had been stuck in their cars for 12 hours, or who had been without electricity for three days. It wasn't a tsunami or even a Midwestern blizzard; no homes were destroyed; a few people were killed in accidents. But what a relief to be distracted from the usual news, which leaves one feeling frustrated, guilty, depressed, angry, or all four, as one contemplates the geopolitical, economic, and leadership challenges we face. The storm brought us back, for a few hours before the recriminations started, to the good old days (probably mythical) when we were One, a family holding on to each other to stand against overwhelming forces. A good feeling. And of course, there is that feeling we all have even if we won't admit it, of the joy of the snow-day, when all of your obligations are suddenly cancelled by a relatively benevolent act of God, and you are free (admittedly less joyful if you are without electricity).
Interestingly, the media reports repeatedly used the terminology "a city under siege," or "the capital besieged, just like in 1948" As it happens, Friday, the peak of the storm, was the tenth of Tevet, the fast day commemorating the beginning of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in 587 BCE. As far as I could tell, the reporters and anchors and weatherpeople were not aware of this coincidence, though it was mentioned in retrospective reports after the weekend. Despite the inconvenience and suffering caused by this snow-siege, it sometimes seemed from the popular response that Zechariah's prophecy (8:19) had come true:
The fast of the fourth month [17th of Tammuz], the fast of the fifth month [9th of Av], the fast of the seventh month [3rd of Tishrei], and the fast of the tenth month [10th of Tevet] shall become occasions for joy and gladness, happy festivals for the House of Judah…
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!