The exchange -- between Palestinian youths and Israeli passers-by
at the ancient Dung Gate -- came in celebration of a rare heavy
snowstorm that brought much of the Holy Land to a standstill,
offering a respite from 29 months of fighting.
"This sort of thing gives everyone perspective. It makes people
focus on what they have in common rather than politics," veteran
Israeli meteorologist Danny Roup told Reuters.
Across the West Bank, the strongest cold front in a least a
decade brought snow as deep as 12 inches, almost unimaginable in a
region better known for balmy winters.
In Israel, snow blocked palm-lined highways and only a few
vehicles dared to venture out as the Mediterranean country's tiny
fleet of snowplows went to work.
Most of neighboring Lebanon and Syria were also snowbound, with
the main Beirut-to-Damascus road blocked and dozens of mountain
In West Bank cities that have been largely reoccupied by Israeli
forces, the winter whiteness masked the scars of almost daily
Palestinian youths who on other days might play deadly games of
cat-and-mouse by throwing stones at Israeli patrols or putting up
nationalist posters made do with tamer pastimes.
Snowmen went up in Ramallah's main square, indistinguishable from
those made by Israeli children only a few miles away.
In Bethlehem, the town revered by Christians as the birthplace of
Jesus, snow dusted church steeples and mosque spires.
"People are out and about. There is a sense of relaxation and joy
that comes with snow -- children and even young men throwing
snowballs at one another," said Sami Awad, a Christian activist who
promotes non-violent resistance to occupation.
HOLY CITY SNOWED IN
Having followed weather reports for days, schools and most
businesses in Israel and the West Bank never opened their doors. The
silence was interrupted only by the squeals of children, among them
toddlers swaddled up by their parents for what was for some a first
glimpse of snow.
In the stillness of Jerusalem's Old City, Jewish, Christian and
Muslim faithful shuffled through sleet, past palm trees with frosted
fronds, until finally reaching their places of worship.
The golden Dome of the Rock and silver-capped al-Aqsa Mosque --
holy to Muslims and occasional flashpoints for violence during the
Palestinian revolt for independence -- were decked in downy white.
At the Western Wall, revered by Jews as the last edifice of their
ancient temples, one young man donned headphones to keep his ears
warm as he swayed in prayer.
Winter storms also dumped a heavy blanket of snow on central
Lebanon, cutting off the country's main international highway and
knocking out electricity and phone lines.
Up to five feet of snow blocked off the Dahr al-Baydar mountain
road that connects Beirut to Damascus.
Witnesses said dozens of villages in the eastern Bekaa Valley
were snowed in after plows failed to make it through the blinding
storm to clear remote roads.
A thawing-out was expected to begin in the region on Wednesday.