When thinking about your gap year in Israel part of you is probably visualising hot sunny days on the beach, hiking in the desert, bathing in Israel’s many natural springs and so on.
However, you should also consider the fact that very often it will snow in Israel and when it does the landscape develops a different kind of beauty and a huge amount of people will come out to enjoy the weather.
It is fairly common to have snow in the north of the country, on the Golan Heights. While the Aardvark gap year scheme doesn’t spend a huge amount of time on the Golan, there is no reason you can’t visit on a free weekend and if you can plan your trip for the right time of year then it is certainly a sight worth seeing. Furthermore, on Mount Hermon, at the northern end of the Golan, you can even go skiing, something that many Israelis love to do in the winter and not something many people will think of doing when visiting the Middle East.
Less common, but not exactly unusual, is snow in Jerusalem. It has snowed there several times in recent years and while it is rare for there to be a huge amount of snow, it is not uncommon to wake up in the winter and see 5 centimetres to 10 centimetres on the ground and in more extreme years there can even be as much as 30 centimetres.
Israel doesn’t have much infrastructure for dealing with snow so if there is a significant amount it quickly becomes a public holiday. Families will flock outside to play and build snowmen and enjoy the weather before it passes. Unfortunately, the snow will normally melt within a day but if you are quick to get up and out the house then you can have a great time.
Very occasionally, it will even snow in parts of the Negev desert. In 2015 there was light snow in Beersheba and amazingly snow also fell in Mitzpe Ramon, Arad and Dimona.
However, normally the desert remains free of snow and this adds another amazing contrast to Israel’s landscape. Providing that the roads are clear, in just a few hours you can go on a drive that incorporates amazingly varied scenery. From the rocks and sands of the desert up into the snow covered hills of Jerusalem.
Of course, snow in the Middle East doesn’t last for long. You can safely assume that the vast majority of your gap year will be spent in a snow-free environment. However, for the one or two days a year that Israel does have snow, it is a truly special sight and one that is not quickly forgotten.
With a bit of luck, you can come on your gap year to Israel and be one of the people lucky enough to see Jerusalem’s Old City in all weather conditions, bathed in glorious light and covered in beautiful snow.