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The Message of the ‘Rosh Hashanah’ Sandstorm


Yesterday, in Eretz Yisrael, we all woke up to a strange orange cast to the light in our rooms. I couldn’t believe my eyes, when I pulled back the curtain and looked outside. Ooooo, nasty weather! A sandstorm had drifted in and settled over us. I hoped it wouldn’t last more than 24 hours, but it was still here this morning.

The air doesn’t move and it’s dry and hot like an oven and stings a bit on exposed skin. I went into Jerusalem today for my last-minute holiday shopping and my heart just sank at the listless look of all the trees standing still and erect and covered in a gray coat of dirt. All the bus and train benches, every exposed surface in fact, was coated with grime and kids had drawn in the dirt on bus windows.

What does this mean, Hashem? I asked. I was so looking forward to the New Year with all its promise of a fresh new start and here in the midst of our preparations, we get this dusting of filth that is even dangerous to breathe. And there’s really no hope for a nice, refreshing rain to wash it all clean again before the chagim. We’ll go into the holiday, most likely, with this dirty face. Why?

And now, the news is telling us that “due to the lack of strong winds and the mass of sand in the air, the current haze and heatwave are set to accompany us into the weekend and up to Rosh HaShana.”

Tuesday marked the heaviest haze during the month of September in the last 75 years, and the rest of the week is not going to be any better. The heavy haze was still present Wednesday morning, suffocating all of Israel, and according to the latest forecasts, we won’t be seeing blue skies until Rosh HaShana early next week.

Due to the heavy presence of pollutants in the air, the Environmental Protection Ministry has called for the cancellation of all school trips, and outdoor activities.

…Over the last day, hundreds have received medical care for breathing problems. About 70 were treated at a hospital in Safed and three were said to be in serious condition.

In addition to the continued haziness, the current heat wave is set to continue. The meteorological service has issued a heat warning for all of Israel lasting from 9am to 9pm on Wednesday and most areas are expected to experience unusually high temperatures. Areas in the east and the valleys will experience severe heat throughout the day.

Visibility is expected to be especially low. As of now, buildings are only visible within one kilometer, compared to 8-10 kilometer visibility on a normal day. These figures apply for all of Israel.

…The thousands of tons of sand particles in the air above us fall slowly, and as such the haze will remain for some time, he explained. This in contrast to sand storms during periods of seasonal change, which are often quite short.

Due to the lack of strong winds, the haze will remain for some time, and will continue to fall slowly. This is an unprecedented event.


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