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Beating the summer heat

by michael July 23 2010
WeatherFoodThings to do
Hot weather
It's brutal out there - just ask this dude

It's almost August in Jerusalem. This can mean any number of things - watermelon season is in full swing at the shuk, the Beer Festival is coming to town - but for many of us in Jerusalem, one thing will be most noticeable: It is really, really hot. Sure, the relative height of the Judean Hills and the occasional mountain breeze means that during the hot months Jerusalem residents suffer less than their compatriots in the Levantine bayou that is summertime Tel Aviv - but when it's 90 degrees and there hasn't been a cloud in the sky since March and the desert sun is glaring fiercely off the glowing white Jerusalem stone, the difference can seem at times to be mostly academic.

Jerusalemite doesn't want you to melt out there. Jerusalemite wants you to have only good feelings about Jerusalem - not a parched mouth, sunstroke and an unnecessary intimacy with local medical care. So here's some information about keeping yourself in the cool and out of the Hadassah emergency room.

  • If your skin is any lighter than the fuul on your hummus (not a scientific gauge), and you're going to be outside for awhile, put on some sunscreen. If your skin turns to bacon, you may run into trouble with some locals who have issues with that particular meat.
  • Wear a hat. Hats are spiffy, and they keep your head from sucking in an undue amount of sun.
  • Keep hydrated. This is damned important. It's easy to forget just how quickly the baking sun of the Middle East can deplete your body's vital water supply. Always carry a big 1.5 liter bottle of water (only 6 NIS usually) for everyone in your party if you're going to be walking around outside for any significant length of time.
  • Many stores, restaurants and hotels are air-conditioned. Take advantage of this fact. Step inside. Have a smoothie. Cool down. Take life slow. For what should you hurry?
  • If you're staying in an apartment without air conditioning (yes, these still exist), keep these key Hebrew words in mind: kivunei avir. It means "directions of air [flow]," and refers to a central concept in better Jerusalem construction. Unlike apartments in cooler countries which limit their windows to one wall and heat up like a pizza oven during summer, Israeli apartments almost always have windows on at least two sides to facilitate air flow and exchange. Open these windows. Put a fan in front of one. Feel sweet relief.
  • Eat an ice cream cone. You are in Jerusalem, and you deserve it.

Stay cool out there, peoples.

Image courtesy of noneck from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Emek Refaim Street Fair POSTPONED

by michael October 28 2008
Things to doWeather
The annual one-day-only Emek Refaim Street Fair, which we blogged about last week, has been postponed, due to a forecast for inclement weather, until Sunday, November 2. The hours remain the same. So if you show up on Emek Refaim tomorrow and all you get is wet, blame all those people praying for rain, not Jerusalemite.
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Ice storms for the mouth

by ben July 30 2008
FoodFor the kidsShoppingWeather

Wall of barad

Barad literally means hail, but in the context of the beverage industry, it refers to those flavored slush drinks that can be seen all around town now that the mid-summer heat is setting in. Not a flurry, not a blizzardbarad (the reverse psychology weather pattern marketing can get to be a little much).

Jerusalem coffee shops might not know as much about iced coffee as Dunkin' Donuts or Starbucks does, but some of them make a decent espresso-based barad. Some have even diversified, offering exotic fruit-flavored barads, although the best coffee shops are the ones who will also agree to make a "café kar," basically an au lait on the rocks.

Kiosks around town also get in the barad game, charging less than the highbrow espresso bars, with results of mixed and unpredictable quality.

But like the great North American Slurpee, barad comes in many flavors, as one can see from the ironically named Fresh Juice Bar, which, during the summer months, is set up to be basically a glorified barad depot. Located on Ben Hillel St. near the corner of King George (across the street from Tower Records, which used to be a kabala center and KFC before that), here one can enjoy lemon, grape, cola, mint, strawberry and apple barad, which the menu lists as "slash" in Zohan-ese English.

A small cup contains plenty to freeze your brain, and it only costs 5 NIS. Premium flavors like coffee and passion fruit (which has seeds floating around in the churning blades, so it must contain real fruit, right?) run a bit more at 10 NIS for a small.

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Who's ready for snow?

by michael February 19 2008

Because, once again, Jerusalem is slated to get some. The storm, which wreaked havoc in Greece, is barreling in on the Israeli coast where it's expected to drop a moderate amount of snow while causing temperatures to plunge.

Two major snowfalls in one season, and especially so close together, is of course incredibly rare here in our modest metropolis on the fringe of the desert. It's possible that such freakish weather could be the result of mere chance and caprice, but Israel is the kind of place where meteorological phenomena are just as often interpreted as the will of a vengeful god or two, so Jerusalemite has to assume that higher powers are at work - and that they are displeased. Probably about that whole "no more real sushi" thing.  

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Snow-themed weekend

by michael February 02 2008
FoodJerusalem strollsThings to doWeather

Sure, the snow, even when it comes, doesn't deign to stick around long here in the Levant, but even if you can't tramp out with snowboots to sled down Mount Zion and build a snow golem, you can still toast our departed snowfall with some good times in the city this coming weekend (after Shabbat is over) - especially since it's going to be relatively warm. (Highs up to 60F!)

How does one celebrate snow in Jerusalem? Appropriately snow-colored food, of course. Given that winter chill, anything frozen is out...but Jerusalemite has some ideas of foods that will keep you warm yet in a festive winter mood.

Start out with a hot milk-and-honey drink at Tmol Shilshom. Remember as you drink it that once upon a time a whole nation of people crossed one of the world's most inhospitable deserts to get a taste of that business.

Then head to the first bakery or coffee shop you come across - Jerusalemite recommends the little shop Turkish Bourekas from Haifa on Jaffa Road - and get a bourekas filled with salty white cheese, topped with alabaster tehina and a pristine hard-boiled egg.

And dessert? Why not a fresh crepe at Katzefet on the Ben Yehuda midrachov?

And then walk all those calories off while watching the remaining bits of snow disappear from Independence Park. Have fun! 

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Sacher in the snow

by ben February 01 2008
WeatherFor the kidsJerusalem strollsMunicipal newsThings to do



Snow falls in only parts of Israel, but when it snows in the hilly north -- usually between zero and three times per winter -- it's likely to snow in Jerusalem as well. Rare is a multi-day, multi-centimeter snowstorm like the one that blanketed our city in white this week.

Click here for more... 

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Snowflakes in the air...

by michael January 30 2008
WeatherMunicipal news

Unless you're a recluse, you may have noticed that a bizarre frosty white precipitate has coated the ground. They tell Jerusalemite it's called "snow." Jerusalemite privately thinks that this whole frozen water from the sky is somewhat of a betrayal of the promise of clement Mediterranean weather - there are palm trees here, for hummus' sake - but even if we're cold, and inundated with hordes of Tel Avivians, their eyes alight with the wonder at our bizarre weather, there is a silver lining on those snow clouds.

Yes, believe it or not, the municipality actually acknowledged this year, for what has to be the first time, that it sometimes snows in Jerusalem, and made some preparations to that effect. Gasp. Jerusalemite knows. Not only has the city loosed 100 plows to keep major roads clear, but emergency services have been mobilized and equipped to deal with the inevitable traffic accidents. And it's a good thing, too - 20 cm of snow are expected before the storm is through on Thursday.

If you're in the city, you may wish to take the municipality's advice to heart and not drive. Go on a walk and experience the rare wonder of a Middle Eastern city blanketed in snow, and try not to scoff too hard at all those Tel Avivians. 

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Winter treats

by michael January 25 2008
Things to doFoodWeather

In case you haven't noticed, it's cold in Jerusalem. And while Jerusalem residents won't acknowledge the annual three-month spell of cold weather by using insulation in buildings or installing heating units as a standard amenity (to do so would be to admit defeat, or something), they do trot out plenty of winter-appropriate comfort food to beat the chill. So if you're trapped outside for any length of time, here's your Jerusalemite-approved guide to getting your blood flowing again...

1) Get the sahlab at Mifgash Ha-Sheikh. Sahlab, a Middle Eastern delicacy made out of a powdered, and obscure, Egyptian root, is a sort of hot pudding, although its flavor and consistency are totally unique. Mifgash Ha-Sheikh is famous for sahlab, and you'll get a generous cupful garnished with nuts, coconut flakes and abundant cinnamon.

2) If sahlab is a little too adventurous for your palate, head a few meters down the street from the Shammai branch of Mifgash Ha-Sheikh to Babette's Feast, a hole-in-the-wall Belgian waffle joint that's often crammed full enough to have a line. The waffles are luxurious, but those looking to fortify themselves against frosty weather should get the hot chocolate. This ain't your average Swiss Miss - Babette's hot chocolate is the real chocolately syrupy rib-sticking deal.

3) Nothing beats a cold and rainy day like soup - head down to Ha-Marakiyah, Jerusalem's funkiest all-soup indie restaurant. If you can get a table, the sweet potato soup (marak batata) should banish any hint of the frigid temperatures outside.

And remember, spring isn't too far off...

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Rainy day activities #12 & 35

by michael January 24 2008
Things to doFor the kidsWeather

It's been raining in Jerusalem late. Quelle surprise.

Winter and its accompanying deluges can be rough on anyone, but as anyone who's ever been around children knows, something about being cooped up inside by inclement weather brings out little people's most riotous impulses. Nothing augments gloomy weather outside like a furious ball of sugar-fueled destruction inside.

So what to do with the little darlings? Make the most out of the situation: find an indoor activity, outside the house, and maybe even make it educational. That's right. Take 'em to the Bloomfield Science Museum. The kid-friendly museum is chock full of the sort of weird science displays that the younger set gravitate to. And there's even a gift shop. Check the current schedule of events and exhibits at the museum's website,

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A nice 'n' warm Shabbat.

by michael January 19 2008
WeatherThings to do

Mayhaps Jerusalemite complained too soon.

Or maybe the good Lord, after inflicting several days of chills on his Holy City, decided to give the residents a Shabbat reprieve - the forecast for Saturday calls for a downright springlike 60 degrees, with sun and calm winds. Who could ask for better weather than that in the dead of winter?

With that rare bit of clement weather in midwinter Jerusalem in mind, why not take go on a nice constitutional? Just pick a direction and go, taking in the still of Shabbat as you walk along. And don't forget to appreciate the sunshine before the capricious fates yank it away again.

Shabbat shalom, or a happy weekend, from Jerusalemite. 


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