It’s Snow Use

‘Inordinately fussy.’ I accept that derogatory description with a certain degree of pride. I – in fact we – are concerned enough about how we look to ride the bus into Jerusalem, take the light rail, get on another bus, and walk ten minutes down Rehov Aza to where Frank, our hair handler, lives to get our haircuts. (Maybe it’s because I still have most of the hair on my head, whereas some of you don’t.) As with a lot of other things, our haircutting schedule has been seriously disrupted, thanks to COVID. However, what passes for our government once again blew the all-clear signal, and we were scheduled to make the trip on Wed. Feb. 17, weeks (months?) later than we ordinarily would have. But on Tuesday, I had to call and reschedule. This time, it was the weather. Snow predicted for Jerusalem. A little snow, a major snafu.

Those of us from northern climes get a certain sense of superiority seeing how Israelis deal or don’t deal with even infinitesimal amounts of sheleg. However, attention must be paid when all vehicular traffic grinds to a standstill in and around Jerusalem, and you’re stranded far from the comforts of your home. Which has happened, although nothing like the disruption real amounts of the white stuff create back in The Country from Which We Came.

I always keep in mind the winter of 2006-2007, right before we made aliyah, shoveling the snow from our driveway at 78 Cranford Place. This is the last year I’ll EVER have to do this. Now that I am thirteen years wiser, I can’t imagine being up to the task in the winter of 2020-2021. But the good thing about snow and its removal is that, even if you did nothing at all, sooner or later, it would melt and go away. But there’s something more insidious that I find myself shoveling these days, something that doesn’t go away. Maybe it’s my imagination, but it seems to be getting worse and worse, impervious to my frantic efforts at removal. And that’s B.S., which is (spoiler alert) not short for blizzard snafu.

Now that the U.S. presidential election is over and the ‘other guy’ has been returned to his digs in sunny Palm Beach, the culture wars seem to revolve around climate change and energy policy. The brouhaha is mostly state-side, as no one in The Land (where solar power is king) is bloviating against renewable energy. Still, the B.S. is all around me, and I have a lot of digging to do with my virtual shovel.

One fellow whom I see fairly frequently was lamenting the stopping of the Keystone XL pipeline. We’ve had a good conversation over the course of a few weeks, and I threw in something I had learned about the desalination plant in Ashdod. The pipes now being used to pump water down to southernmost Israel were first installed to bring oil up to Ashdod. Things being the way they are, and Israelis being good at making lemonade, Mekoret (our water company) built a desalination plant and is now making good use of the pipes – just not for what they were intended.  

If that could be done down the road with the Keystone pipes, everything would be hunky-dory, but it’s not that simple. Within the next one or two decades, petroleum use will likely plummet, making those pipelines as obsolete as a certain hotel in Atlantic City. And, alas, there’s no water in landlocked Canada to send down to where it would be needed in the drought-stricken farms in the U.S. ‘heartland.’ Maybe just the reverse: desalinated water from the Gulf of Mexico flowing north instead. That’s an idea. On second thought, maybe scrapping the pipeline is the way to go.

With that discussion possibly at an end, I walked, without knowing it, into another controversy – big time, right up to my tuchis. It was the same Wednesday. We were warm and snuggly in our apartment, looking out at the rain that was coming down intermittently here, wondering if it was indeed snowing over the hills in Jerusalem. And then the power went out, and a second later the Uninterrupted Power Supply attached to my 27” iMac started going beep, beep, beep. They’re pretty good about dealing with this kind of problem in Maale Adumim. Usually, the power comes back within fifteen or twenty minutes, which it did in this case; it’s more the uncertainty of not knowing when that’s so unnerving.

I was discussing the outage with someone else I talk to with some regularity, and I shared the thought that things could have been much worse; look at what was happening in Texas, where millions of people were without electricity in the freezing cold for several days. I was totally caught off guard by his response, which was to blame the green meanies, people encouraging the use of alternative power sources, in this case, wind turbines, for the disaster – as in, alternative energy is not reliable, that’s the problem.

I hadn’t given much thought – in fact, any thought – to what actually was the problem in a land far away from me, so I mildly demurred, and started gathering information later when I returned home. I wondered if the interpretation I had been given would pass my Big Three test: does it make any sense, is it true, does it have anything to do with anything else. Would I need to get out my virtual shovel? No surprise, this analysis was, shall we say, somewhat off target and has been roundly and soundly debunked. Even the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the guys who provide the power down there, has admitted that failures by the wind turbines are the least of their problems. The fossil fuel fan club has been left, appropriately, out in the cold again; the governor of Texas found with egg on his face; and their senator, following the strict orders by his pre-teen children, discovered fleeing to Cancun, where the ‘former guy’ may or may not have a resort.

Does any of this have anything to do with what’s happening in The Land? In a way, yes. The most salient features of climate change can be described simply as: when it’s cold, it will get colder; when it’s hot it will get hotter; when it’s dry, it will get dryer; when it’s wet, it will get wetter. When they built the block of buildings, one of which we’re living in, some genius figured out they could save a few shekels by not waterproofing the merpesot. It doesn’t rain in Maale Adumim. And then we moved into our apartment, and we got a knock on our door. When it rained, it would leak from our balcony down into the room below. (The guy who lived here before us knew about the problem, but, you know…)  It doesn’t rain here as often as it used to, but when it does, it can rain much harder, enough to overwhelm the drainage system. (Yes, we fixed the problem after time and money and aggravation.)

And speaking of rain, while Mekoret has done a first-rate job of providing us with fresh water coming in, what passes for our government has failed to do much about wastewater going out through the sewer system. There has been sewage in the streets of Nahariya, where our friends Yehudit and Yitzchak live and in Ashdod, where we visited, and probably other municipalities as well; Same problem: too much rainwater coming down too fast for the drainage systems to handle. (When it’s wet, it gets wetter.) Any plans to fix this issue? Some problems go away if you ignore them; some you can bloviate about; some will just keep smacking you in the face.

We’ve rescheduled our hair appointments with Frank for Sunday, by which time we assume the dusting of snow in Jerusalem will have melted. He’s excellent at what he does: makes us look even gorgeouser than we did before we arrived. He’s also a nice guy. What’s interesting about him is he’s a Brit who’s fascinated with American politics, who gets his news and opinions from a rather suspect source. He tells me that most of his clientele refuse to discuss politics with him, but I’m always game – just not when he has a pair of scissors in his hand. I’m wondering what cockamamie opinions that no sane person would hold he’ll have on offer this time. I just have to remember to bring my virtual anti-B.S. shovel. Remember, I’m on a mission.

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