We have known the Blooms forever and this is not the place to expound on that.* Suffice it to say that we were looking forward to participating in Benjamin Baruch's bar mitzvah. This was thirteen years ago next week.
At the time, we were still living in Gush Etzion, about fifteen minutes south of Jerusalem. Mother was still in Arad, about an hour south of us. And I was still working in Yeroham, about half an hour's drive on the other side of Arad. So the plan was pretty simple - I would pick up Mother Thursday after work and bring her to our house and Friday we'd go to Jerusalem.
So I picked up Mother after work and we left Arad about four-thirty on our 71 km (~44 miles) trip north. The drive was uneventful most of the way. A bit of flurries as we passed east of Hevron. As we passed Highway 35, the snow was sticking.
At this point I was not yet worried, but I did want to get through as fast as possible. We had about twelve km to go. It was getting dark.
Neither our drivers nor our cars are equipped for snow and at the risk of sounding discriminatory, the rural Arab population is worse at this than the rest of us.
The road going down the hill from the Se'ir junction (road 3517) was not looking good. At the bottom, the road curved left before ascending to the northern entrance to Halhul, and cars were skidding. Others tried to pass them. Traffic stopped for a bit but eventually began moving up the hill in fits and starts.
|Mapa maps (click to enlarge)|
Everyone had the sense to drive slowly, but not everyone had the sense to stay in his lane. There was only one in each direction, but people drove on both shoulders, so that meant four lanes. At least.
We worked our way up the hill and began the approach to the descent past the junction near Karmei Zur. ("Near" is relative. It was not a distance we could consider walking if we got stuck. Which we did.) GRIDLOCK.
We sat. The army was not in evidence. There were a few policemen and I borrowed a phone from one to check in home, five minutes away. It kept snowing, but I couldn't keep the car running indefinitely, so it got colder. I tried to keep the windshield clear, just to prevent the effects of claustrophobia. The wiper on my side broke.
No one was moving. Mother was handling it pretty well. She pulled out a bottle of chocolate liquor that she had brought for us. We drank about half of it. From the bottle.
The snow kept coming down. Some of the young local Arabs were out trying to direct traffic, such as it was, and occasionally there would be some movement in the opposite lane. Lanes. I kept thinking that these guys are future Hamas recruits, while our army was slow.
|The emergency center in Kiryat Arba|
At 7 AM, they began evacuating everyone to Kiryat Arba, using army vehicles. They said to leave the cars with the keys and they took us to the emergency center in Kiryat Arba where they would get us organized for Shabbat. There was no talk of going anywhere, even though it was still early Friday morning.
Mother was at the emergency center being looked after as well as could be expected, considering the numbers of people involved. The local folks arranged places for people to stay. Many were taken to local families. A large Beduin family was housed in the yeshiva. I walked over to Zvi and Celia Ofer's apartment to see if they minded having two guests. Zvi and I had been roommates in Jerusalem thirty-one years earlier.
|These two photos by Moshe Rubin, Jerusalem|
|Jerusalem on that very day|
For Shabbat, they gave us some clothes that didn't fit, but that didn't matter. In the evening we stayed in. In the morning, Zvi stayed in but I wanted to go to shul, so he gave me directions and off I went.
It was the Shabbat of my own bar mitzvah and when I saw that the gabbai was someone I had known years before in Chicago, I asked him if I could read. He agreed. I see this fellow about once a year, usually at weddings of mutual friends. Most recently at a Chicago funeral in Jerusalem. Every time he sees me, he says "You remember the last time I saw you, when it snowed and you read your bar mitzvah?" No matter how many years go by, that remains the last time we saw each other.