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Philly Olim Make Best of Jerusalem Snow

January 10, 2013 By:
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People play in the snow in front of the Dome of the Rock inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City on January 10, 2013. Photo by Sliman Khader/Flash90

When Todd and Aliza Zeff moved to Israel from Wynnewood last summer, chances are they didn’t think their new home would see major snow before their old one.

But while Philadelphia residents thus far have enjoyed a mild winter, life in Jerusalem slowed considerably this week when nearly eight inches of snow blanketed the city.  The so-called “storm of the decade” prompted government officials to shut down major roads to Jerusalem and cancel local bus service. Schools and the city's courts were closed due to bad driving conditions. Power outages were also reported in some areas, most due to trees falling on the power lines.

Todd Zeff, the former director of Camp Ramah in the Poconos, and his wife, Aliza, a former teacher at Perelman Jewish Day School, dared to step outside with their three children. They found the snow sticky enough to construct a snowman — one which did not look out of place in the holy city. The pious figure wore a black hat, a black beard and peyot made from celery.

“All is well here in Israel, and we are enjoying a very rare snowstorm, after many days of rain and flooding,” the couple wrote in an email.  “It's been a little crazy.”

The Zeffs were among 14 local Jews who made aliyah in August on a charter flight organized by Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization that assists Jewish immigrants in their move to Israel.

While the Zeffs had a frame of reference for the snowstorm, hundreds of immigrants from Ethiopia experienced snow for the first time this week.

More than 2,000 Ethiopian immigrants who have moved to Israel in recent months now reside in Jewish Agency absorption centers in Safed, which is more than two hours north of Jerusalem. The olim worked with professional staff to prepare for the cold. Jewish Agency educators conducted enrichment programming for the children, opened a "movie club" for teenagers, prepared hot soup and set up heaters in the apartments of the olim.

JTA contributed to this report.

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