Op-ed: Rare moments of harmony witnessed in West Bank during snow storm will soon be over
Published: 12.16.13

On Sunday I toured the snowy bank. A golden sun was shining, soft and bright, there was barely a tail of a cloud in the sky, the air was crystal clear, and visibility was magnificent – all the way till the end of Tel Aviv. Anyone conceding this beautiful piece of land is insane, I thought. We mustn’t withdraw even one meter – as long as the snow doesn’t melt.

On Saturday, at the Ariel junction, peace was celebrated. Palestinian drivers were stranded in the snow alongside Israeli drivers. Occasionally the Palestinians helped push, occasionally the Israelis helped. Central Command chief Nitzan Alon found himself among the pushers.

The weekly protest near the separation fence in Bilin, a holy tradition among radical leftist circles, was canceled due to the weather. It was one of the only weekends in the past few years with no riot recorded in the West Bank, not a single incident. No Palestinian stone throwing, no Jewish price tag. Another 364 days of snow, and we’ll reach the end of time.

The Palestinians have their own ways of dealing with the weather hazards. When they realized that the snow was falling in order to stay, they shut themselves up in their homes. Those who could light a fire lit a fire, and the entire family warmed up around it, cooked around it, ate around it. The open fire was suitable compensation for the cut-off power.

In Gaza some neighborhoods were flooded, and the IDF transferred pumps to reduce the water level. Similar damages were not recorded in the West Bank. There were few appeals from the Palestinian Authority, and they were usually answered. The cooperation was exemplary.

The removal of snow from the Palestinian roads began on Saturday. In Israel the snow removal is carried out after a series of marathonic discussions attended by the prime minister, ministers, government workers, officers and television cameras. In the West Bank it’s done by contractors, who receive or don’t receive their pay from the Palestinian Authority or from the local authority or from local business owners. Each one brings his own power shovel, his own bulldozer, and the road is slowly cleared.

The IDF took care of the interurban roads. Those stuck along the routes left their cars at the side of the road and did without them. On Sunday the roads were still covered with cars with Palestinian and Israeli license plates, one after the other, one next to each other.

There are no great expectations on the Palestinian side, and so there are no cries of despair. No one is demanding a commission of inquiry. Whether good or bad, this is one of the characteristics distinguishing the Palestinian society from the Israeli society.

Yitzhar: IDF not greeted with stones this time
The way the settlers deal with the snow is a completely different story. The Binyamin Regional Council is located in the settlement of Psagot, opposite Ramallah. A total of 24,000 people live in the council’s district. It’s a strong, well-organized council. When the scope of the storm was revealed, shelters were prepared in two settlements in case of an evacuation. In most communities there were long power outages, which stretched throughout the weekend. In some of them power supply has yet to be renewed. There was no water either.

But the Home Front Command provided 3,000 body warmer wrappers which, when opened, can warm up frozen parts of the body. Water bottles were supplied. The grocery stores opened. When the cellular network collapsed, walkie-talkies filled in. The emergency crews in each community were operated and solved problems, and the operations room in Psagot coordinated everything.

The illegal outposts suffered greatly. Families live there in caravans, and the cold penetrates; the roads to the outposts are defective and the connection to the electricity network is improvised, illegal, allegedly behind the authorities’ backs. Haresha, next to Talmon, is such an outpost. The High Court failed to evacuate it, but the snow almost did. Eight families asked to be evacuated and were removed. The rest stayed put. The entire IDF echelon was busy Sunday morning evacuating a two-year-old girl from Haresha who required hospitalization. She was successfully evacuated to the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer.

What does the snow harmony in the West Bank indicate about the chances of peace? Nothing. When the snow melts, the party will be over. The Palestinian Authority further reduced its cooperation on civil issues recently, for fear of losing its bargaining position in the negotiations.

The same applies to the settlers. But it’s nice to remember. In the midst of the storm a military chopper landed in Yitzhar, the most radical settlement in Judea and Samaria. It took a woman about to give birth to the hospital. This was a particularly joyous occasion, as it was the first time an IDF force entered Yitzhar and was not greeted with curses, barking dogs or a shower of stones.

Until the snow melts.