JERUSALEM: Jerusalem woke up to the rare experience of seeing its holy sites covered in snow on Thursday, with the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall under a layer of white after an overnight snowstorm.
Before dawn children were up hurling snowballs at each other outside the Old City gates, as the faithful trudged to sites holy to Judaism, Islam and Christianity.
The snowstorm began on Wednesday evening, leading the authorities to shut down public transportation and block the main road to Jerusalem.
But as it eased overnight the municipality said it would resume services, and people even drove to see the spectacle.
“We came in from Tel Aviv to play in the snow,” said Ben Miller. “It’s a rare occasion that we get snow in Jerusalem. The last time, I think, was 2013.”
The snow also blanketed parts of Syria, Lebanon and Jordan on Wednesday, covering areas it had not reached in years, disrupting traffic and postponing vaccination campaigns against Covid-19 and even exams at some universities.
It snowed for the first time in years in Marjayoun in southern Lebanon, and in Bayda in northeast Libya.
Gale force winds knocked out electricity in vast parts of Lebanon, forcing many Lebanese, already used to power cuts, to rely on generators for longer hours. Rescuers pulled four people out of their snow-covered cars, the National News Agency said.
The first snow this winter in the Syrian capital, Damascus, did not prevent the Premier League soccer tournament from going ahead, as Army Sports Club and Al-Karamah faced off despite the snow that covered the pitch, the Syrian Al-Watan daily reported.
In the mountains of Syria’s Sweida province, snow was as high as 15 cm (6 inches), according to the official state news agency SANA. Roads in some provinces were blocked. In the central province of Hama, bulldozers shoveled snow to open roads while vehicles skidded on ice, causing traffic disruption.
The University of Damascus called off mid-term exams scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday in all its branches around Syria because of the extreme weather conditions. The country’s ports remained open. Later, local authorities in the provinces of Sweida, Quneitra, Daraa and Tartous suspended school on Thursday due to the storm and heavy snowfall.
In the opposition-held northwestern Syria, civil defence teams have been building dirt mounds since Tuesday around camps for the displaced to prevent rain from flooding the crowded areas. Nearly 3 million displaced people live in northwestern Syria, mostly in tents and temporary shelters. Heavy rainfall last month damaged over 190 displacement sites, destroying and damaging over 10,000 tents.