JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A rare heavy snowfall blanketed Jerusalem, parts of northern Israel and hilly areas of the occupied West Bank overnight from Thursday to Thursday, shutting down roads and schools.

Worshipers had to wade through inches of snow to reach holy sites in Jerusalem’s walled Old City, including the snow-capped Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall.

Heavy snow is rare in the city, so the children took to the streets to watch the flakes fall and throw snowballs at each other.

Abed Shabany, 39, took his two sons to play on a hill overlooking Jerusalem. As he flipped his Jeep through inches of slush, other parents kept warm by brewing coffee on gas canisters in their boots.

“I haven’t seen anything like it in years,” he said. “There’s no school today, so I walk around with the kids making snowmen and snowballs. I think that’s a good sign. It will be a good year, I hope.

Political cartoons about world leaders

The municipality’s cherry pickers were out in the town centre, sawing through broken and dangerous branches, with much less traffic on the roads than usual.

Police closed several major highways leading to Jerusalem and bus services inside the city were suspended.

Throughout the night, 210 snow plows worked to clear the streets of the city, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion told Israel’s Army Radio Thursday morning. The snow accumulated to a height of about 20 centimeters (8 inches), according to Israeli media.

Before arriving in Jerusalem, the winter storm swept through the Mediterranean region, from Greece to Turkey and Syria.

(Reporting by Ammar Awad and Ronen Zevulun in Jerusalem, writing by Stephen Farrell in Jerusalem and Henriette Chacar in Haifa; editing by Mark Heinrich)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.