Just after Sukkot, when the number of terror attacks shot up seemingly overnight, I was discussing – venting – with a veteran oleh the frightening turn of events here in Israel. It had been two months since my family and I had arrived on aliyah and settled in Jerusalem.
“How does it end?” I asked. “What will stop them?”
“Just wait till the rains start,” he told me. The attacks would taper off, he assured me, because rainy weather deters would-be assailants from setting out on their deadly missions. The suggestion seemed a bit facile, but I was happy to grab hold of any hope that things would get better.
Rain in Israel carries more meaning than anyplace else on earth. Though it might not be the first thing that comes to mind when we think of davening, weather occupies a central role in the daily and holiday prayers of Jews the world over. As essential as rain and dew are to sustaining vegetation and human life everywhere, the only place whose precipitation needs Chazal placed in the liturgy is Israel.
We all know that Israel is in chronic need of rain. (It doesn’t help that the country shares its finite supply with the PA.) Not only must the skies open, the rain has to fall in the right places. When the narrow, heavily potholed streets are flooded, and residents in some areas lose power in a soaking storm, the Kinneret may still sit hungry, like a neglected child.
So every newcomer quickly learns to bless the rain even as we grumble under our breath about the mess and inconvenience. Its season is fleeting, its window for performing its life-sustaining function so brief, that slogging through it is a small price to pay for the glorious sunshine that usually showers the Holy Land.
Unfortunately, as the seasons have turned, the surge of Arab violence has continued. Stabbings, shootings, car-rammings, stonings – I hold my breath each time I swipe my finger to wake up my phone. I regret that I haven’t actually tried to chart whether the rainy days have been quieter. But regardless of whether the theory is true, rain in Israel tells a larger story.
This is a beautiful land. The panoramic hills and valleys, the inimitable white stones, the kedushah embedded in every meter, the spicy melting pot of Jews. It fills the soul in a way nothing else can.
And yet it’s no secret that life here has its challenges. Take the rain. It hits hard. A couple of weeks ago, with heavy rains causing flooding and road closures throughout the country, a new mall in Be’ersheva saw its roof collapse under the downpour. In our neighborhood, the streets don’t drain well; they’re full of dips and craters that quickly become muddy pools. Combine that with pencil-thin or non-existent sidewalks typical of Jerusalem (such a small, crowded country can’t waste space on sidewalks, it seems) and cars barreling past at ungodly speeds, and walking in the rain becomes a harrowing experience.
It’s just one of the quotidian ways that living in Israel demands patience and forbearance. Like the tedious paper trail you have to chase to receive care through kupat cholim (the national health funds). Paying bills in the post office, with lines out the door. Mail service that is spotty at best. The operative principle of schools, hospitals, and pretty much all public entities that clear and complete information need not be provided because you’ll eventually figure things out on your own. And – this is a silly one – the shopping carts in every supermarket I patronize are heavier and more difficult to steer than any I ever encountered in New York. Pushing them safely through the store should be part of basic training for the IDF.