When the Chamsin Breaks

Israel is a strange country when it comes to weather. A tropical country, some might say – all I know is that it’s mad-as-a-hatter weather over here. Near the ocean, where I live, it could be hotter than hell, but up in the hills of Jerusalem it’ll be cool at night, the desert not far from those hills will be even cooler, the mountain in the North will be covered in snow and the border in the South will be even warmer than the ocean but dry.

Yesterday and today we had what is called a “chamsin” here on the coast. A chamsin is a few days when the weather is perceptibly hotter than normal, usually quite dry, with sandy winds that blow dust into the houses. Everyone leaves their windows open in the hope of coaxing a non-existent breeze in, and the wardrobe changes appropriately to tank tops, shorts and sandals. In Los Angeles, this weather would be called “earthquake weather” because there is an unsettling quality to it – all day, it feels as if something is about to snap, as if the air cannot stand any more of the still and silent electricity that seems to crackle in it.

Then evening comes along. The first evening of a chamsin might be just as hot and horrid as the day was. The second night might be the same, making people toss and turn in their sweat-soaked sheets as they try to rest. But eventually, the chamsin breaks, as it did tonight. When it does, it’s as if the world breathes a sigh of relief – there, feel that breeze? It’s over, at least for a few more hours. There’s air that doesn’t sting anymore, the windows are open for a reason now, and you can finally get some sleep.

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4 thoughts on “When the Chamsin Breaks

  1. I hope I don’t sound ignorant but is it always hot there? Do people not have air conditioners? Man, there’s nothing I hate more than that kind of heat and that kind of weather. In Minnesota, it’s called TORNADO TO COME and I’m terrified of those. You can just feel them hours before they rear their ugly head.

    I’m glad you had that breeze.

  2. I live three feet from Hell, in the Sonoran desert, so I know from hot. I can tell you that Emily draws the picture very well. Sure, we have A/C here, and that helps of course, but that stillness is, as she points out, “unsettling.”

    I love when you write these kinds of passages. You have such strength and grace when it comes to imparting information to the senses.

  3. Having lived in California, I know exactly what she means. She summed it all up for me with the words “Earthquake weather”. There’s nothing else to describe it.

    Beautifully described.

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