Since the Middle East is normally a hot and dry place without much more than heat waves for meteorologists to report, it can be quite a big story when the weather turns stormy as it did this past weekend. The magnitude of snow, which spread across the region from Jerusalem to Cairo, Homs, Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, Istanbul, Bethlehem and Hebron, was a rare sight to see.
Times of extreme weather like this remind me that Israel is – at least geographically – an integral part of the Middle East. That there were once open roads and railways that connected Damascus to Jerusalem, and buses (not even too long ago) that ran from Cairo to Tel Aviv.
When the weather is harsh, it is harsh for everyone in the region. The heavy rains and snow are not discriminatory; they don’t pick and choose where to fall. When it comes to relief efforts, of course, it’s another story. Not everyone has armored IDF vehicles assisting in rescue efforts, or even roofs over their heads.
Palestinians in the Jordan Valley whose homes were recently razed, Gazans whose homes and streets were flooded and who and weathered the storm without heating and cooking gas and the millions of Syrian refugees across the region living in tents – all felt the storm much worse.
But, for at least for a couple of days, the snow gave an illusion of equality in some places: in the West Bank, for example, on the segregated Shuhada Street in occupied Hebron.
Issa Amro, a Palestinian anti-occupation activist and coordinator of the Youth Against Settlements movement, posted on his Facebook page the following photos of Shuhada Street with this caption:
Snow closed Shuhada Street for all. Snow made all equal. As you know Shuhada Street is closed for Palestinians and only open for settlers by the Israeli government.
Here’s what Shuhada looks like on a normal day: