Israelis Batten Down as Storm Moves In

YERUSHALAYIM -
People standing at the checkout line in a Rami Levi supermarket in Yerushalayim on Tuesday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
People standing at the checkout line in a Rami Levi supermarket in Yerushalayim on Tuesday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

With predictions of up to two feet of snow in Yerushalayim, residents were clearing supermarket shelves on Wednesday in case they are cut off from supplies, as happened to thousands of people last year.

Retailers were reporting a sharp uptick in sales of staple products, including flour, sugar, oil, canned foods, dairy products, bread, chicken and meat, according to Globes.

“We’re talking about sales 2.5 times higher than on a normal day in mid-week. We have run out of chicken completely, and of bread too,” supermarket mogul Rami Levy said.

“People are buying everything, but mainly meat for Shabbos, baby products, and drink, particularly mineral water. They’re afraid of being stuck without food on Shabbos and are buying products that will last them even until Sunday.”

Levy promised, however, that his store branches would be open for business even during the storm.

Blankets and portable heaters are also at a premium. “We ran out quickly,” said one salesman in Yerushalayim’s Mahane Yehuda market, “There’s not a heater to be found anywhere in the area.”

Inside a crowded supermarket, Alon Issashar, 29, said he had hoped to beat the crowds by shopping early.

“As you can see [the end of the world] is coming,” he quipped. “People are going crazy. I guess people outside of Israel will laugh, but we are used to sun.”

Israeli weatherman Danny Rupp predicted 12 to 24 hours of snowfall in the capital. Barry Lynn, a meteorologist at Hebrew University, said the storm would likely dump between 10 and 24 inches of snow on the city.

Traffic jams were are already building up on roads in central Israel on Wednesday afternoon, as people made their way home ahead of the storm.

The decision to close roads leading to the capital will be made in accordance with conditions as they develop. The city’s fleet of 150 snowplows are ready for duty, as well as salt scattering machines and heavier machinery for keeping main routes open.

About 1,000 IDF soldiers were stationed near hospitals and government buildings in Yerushalayim to help keep essential services going.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu joined a meeting at Yerushalayim City Hall, to discuss storm preparations. Also participating were Mayor Nir Barkat, Jerusalem District Police Commander Moshe Edry, as well as representatives of the IDF, social welfare institutions, the Israel Electric Corp. and rescue services.

At the end of the discussion, Netanyahu said, “I am impressed by the authorities’ coordination and preparatory work. We have three missions. The first is to save lives. The second is to ensure the continuity of essential services. The third is to provide mutual assistance and guarantee – residents helping residents. Beyond what the state is doing and will do, beyond what the municipalities are doing and will do, I ask the citizens of Israel to watch out for their neighbors and to help. The people of Israel excel at this.”

The director of the Council of Cemeteries in Yerushalayim, Rabbi Hillel Horowitz, has sent a letter to the Municipality Director Amnon Merhav, asking him to ensure that roads that lead to Har Hamenuhos cemetery in Givat Shaul will be kept clear.

Rabbi Horowitz noted that in last year’s snowstorm, Har Hamenuhos was the municipality’s last priority for snow clearance. Holding levayps was exceedingly difficult, he added, noting “the devotion of the Hevra Kadisha employees, to carry out the mitzvah of burying the dead without delay and without dishonoring the dead person, as well as the pain caused to the families of the dead because their relatives and friends were unable to take part in the funeral procession.”

“The least we can do is to enable people to reach the cemetery in the fastest and safest way,” the rabbi said.