Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Guest Post: Living, Breathing Snow Angels

Yom revi'i, 15 Tevet 5774.

It has been an unusual week in Israel. For the second time in the six years we have lived here, enough snow has fallen to keep us all locked up most of the time, if not in our houses and apartments, at least on our mountain. There were many acts of kindness during this period. Julie Arnowitz writes a poetic acknowledgment to her image of snow angels.

The snow angels of my childhood were made on fresh snow by lying on the back and creating angel wings by moving one’s arms up and down on the snow. There was a competition of who could make a more perfect angel impression in the snow.

The “snow angels” of the December 2013 snowstorm in my mountaintop community are non-competitive and spiritual in nature.

In a snowstorm that closed roads, prevented schools from opening for five school days, and left inhabitants stranded without electricity or water at times, the acts of snow angels were revealed on the community's internal email list and via SMS on mobile phones.

There are officially designated volunteer angels, such as members of the mazkirut (community governing board) and the community emergency committee, whose members never seem to sleep. (I know because I received a SMS close to midnight one night asking for people without electricity to contact them.)

The paid transformative worker angels go way beyond the call of duty and job description by providing essential services and repairs. They open the supermarket, plow the roads, repair local electricity problems, and cheerfully fix the plumbing problems caused by the storm. This includes the electric company employees who finally restored electric power.

The spontaneous generation angels initiate essential volunteer tasks. The subdivision includes:
  • the pharmacy angel, who collects prescriptions and drives over the snow-covered roads to a nearby town to obtain the much needed emergency and chronic medications 
  • the radio angels, who monitor news bulletins and the regional council updates on current road conditions, road closings, and school openings
  •  the tremp angels (also known as the hitchhikers’ saviors), who offer rides to essential places and to and from Jerusalem as they patiently wait to fill up the car with cold and wet residents 
The spiritual angels can be classified according to their function.
  • The prayer enabler angels open their homes to prayer services as the synagogues were too far away. It is not easy to care for small children and to welcome at least nine snow-covered men twice a day.
  • The teacher angels give lectures, teach, and provide children with educational activities.
The members of the cadet angel youth corps earn their gold-tipped angel wings during the snowstorm and its aftermath. They run errands, deliver groceries, shovel snow, and repeatedly request to be called upon by residents to utilize their volunteer services.

Not everyone earned the title of angel. The men who quickly responded to a mother's plea for help when part of the family's roof collapsed were given the title of "rescue commandos" by the grateful family.

The taxonomy is incomplete because there are too many examples to enumerate and I do not know about every act of kindness; but the real thanks goes to the invisible angels who help and nobody knows about their assistance. I merited to catch a glimpse of one. My neighbor was hacking away at clear, smooth ice that was in front of my car. Had I driven off I would have surely skidded downhill. If I was not on my balcony clearing off the snow, I would have not seen him nor known about his unsolicited and potentially life-saving good deed. Many communities are likewise filled with such angels who one cannot  be identified; they look like ordinary people.

Like the snow angels of my childhood the snow angels of Neve Daniel are ephemeral. The snow melts. These services are no longer needed; and the snow angles once more become ordinary neighbors with their good cheer and human foibles. But unlike the snow angels of my childhood which disappeared without leaving a trace, the snow angels of Neve Daniel live on in everyone's heart.

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