Israel weather report: Let it rain, let it snow

On Mount Hermon, the snow storms were seen as a blessing after last winter's drought, which prevented the site from being opened even for one day of skiing. For the first time in nearly two years, the Mount Hermon welcomed skiers on Jan. 7 .

"At least we can now get to work, despite the cloud of uncertainty over the future of the Golan," said ski site manager Menahem Baruch, as staff busily prepared for an influx of weekend visitors. The site is owned and run by a consortium of residents from Moshav Neveh Ativ.

Snow also fell in Safed and Beit Jann, a Druze village on Mount Meron.

For Lake Kinneret, the sudden blast of winter was welcome. The water level rose on Jan. 5 by as much as 2 inches, though the level still remained far below normal.

Nevertheless, there was a sense of optimism among water experts that the long-awaited rains had finally arrived and were contributing to the replenishment of the lake and the country's underground reservoirs.

Residents of southern Tel Aviv and Jaffa, however, weren't so upbeat. Throughout the day on Jan. 5 there was no letup in the rain, and floodwaters inundated dozens of homes.

"For 50 years we have suffered from floods, but still the drains are blocked. And every time there is some heavy rain we have the same problem," one distraught resident said.

The municipality went on emergency alert and opened two community centers to temporarily house the evacuees, including many children, whose homes were literally swamped.

Emergency services used tow trucks to rescue dozens of vehicles stranded in the floods and firefighters toiled throughout the day to pump water out of partially submerged homes.

Meanwhile on the ski slopes, conditions became "ideal for skiing and tobogganing," Baruch said.

Snow plows cleared the access road leading past the Druze village of Majdal Shams to the ski site itself. The chair lifts were double-checked to ensure they were working smoothly, and the runs were marked for beginners, intermediate and experienced skiers.

"The last time the site was open for skiing was in March 1998, at the end of a very mediocre season due to insufficient snow," Baruch said.