Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Autumn in Beersheba took place at 2:30 pm on Friday, November 13. It lasted just under an hour, until about 3:25. Then summer disappeared. Winter arrived.

Up to that Friday afternoon, I’d been complaining to everyone who would listen – not to mention all those who quit listening a long time ago – about how hot it was. It was November, for crying out loud, and I’d still return from the simplest errand just drenched. It was beastly hot.

But on Shabbat, as I walked home in the afternoon after a wonderful lunch with friends, I realized I was cold. For obvious reasons, it hadn’t occurred to me to wear anything other than summer clothes. A jacket or sweater? Heavens, no. Why? It was still seriously hot the day before.

But autumn was over, winter was here -- and honestly, it was cold. On the long walk, I reversed my normal pattern, repeatedly crossing the street to find the shady side. Now I was crossing the street to find the sun.

That night, I added TWO of the eventual four blankets to my bed – a big increment. In the fall, I normally add them one by one, as the season progresses. In the spring, I take them off one by one. It’s one way of marking time. But this year the change was so quick I jump started the night-time warmth progression by adding two at once.

We’d already had “first rain” here, which is Israel is quite a celebration – first rain after the long hot summer is so important it even has its own name – “yored geshem”. If the kids are in school, they’re let out to run and glory in it, and I’ve never been able to resist the temptation to do the same – well, I don’t run or jump. But I do go outside into the yard and just stand in it, enjoying the heck out of the fact that water – not to mention FREE irrigation water -- is falling from the skies. It’s absolutely wonderful.

The first rain rarely accomplishes much. For a very short time, it makes everything look very green, because it washes the dust off the leaves of everything. But by the time it dries – minutes later – you see that it didn’t wash the leaves off very well. They stay spotted with dust and sand. It takes a couple of hard rains to wash it all off.

We’ve had a couple of rain showers since then, so everything is looking pretty lush and green around here. We even had a bit of thunder and lightning, but nothing at all like the first year I was here. That year – 2002 - the thunder was so loud it set off car alarms all over the place. The lightening was absolutely ferocious – and I loved every minute of it. Nothing like a major storm for pure fun. I was hoping that every winter would be like that, with monumental storms, but no such luck.

When it rains in the Negev, it RAINS. The drops pound straight down with incredible force and intensity, but it doesn’t last very long – rarely more than five minutes at a time.

The first big task of winter is to dig out the winter wear for my roommates. Dogs get cold – they really do, especially when the change is so drastic. They haven’t had time to grow their own winter coats, so they need a little help.

For many years, the folks wore regular human sweatshirts. Rachel, the mostly-Poodle, fit perfectly into a 24-month kid’s size. Molly Goldberg, though – the mostly Border Collie – is harder to fit. He’s too big to wear children’s clothes, and too slender to wear an adult size. So I had to cut down an adult sweatshirt to make it fit.

But last year, my daughter JJ in California found actual dog coats for the folks. A bright yellow one for Molly Goldberg and sweet pink for Rachel – and hers even has a hood. She doesn’t much care for the way it squashes her ears so we keep the hood pushed down.

Here’s how they look.

My other two roommates don’t get as much attention, so here they are, too.

Their names are Luciano and Mario, except that I can never remember which is which.

Not only that, but one is a girl and one is a boy – and I’m not sure which is which in that matter either. As long as they can tell, I guess it shouldn’t matter to me.

Pound for pound, Luciano and Mario are the best day brighteners that exist. They sing, talk, chirp, screech and carry on all day long. They’re cheery all the time – there’s no such thing as a bad mood for birds. Amazing, to have resident critters who think a single leaf of wet lettuce is just about the best thing on earth.

Luciano and Mario don’t seem to mind the cooler weather any more than they minded it when it was hot. I carry their whole cage outside during the day time, where they hold forth from the outside room, and then at sunset, bring it back in. Neither one seems to indicate that a birdie-coat would improve things at all. They do get extra sprigs of millet, though, to keep their energy level up – the millet is another US import. No one here seems to stock it.

I had to get creative with the millet. The problem was, if I pinned it to the side of the cage itself, Luciano and Mario would invite all their outside bird friends over for lunch. Then the outside birds -- who lack the most rudimentary manners – would gobble the whole thing, pecking at it from outside the cage. In fact, if they could work it loose, they’d fly away with the whole sprig.

Finally I found a way to clothespin it to the little ladder deep inside the cage. Now at least Luciano and Mario get the first bite.

One other thing about winter in Beersheba: every night is a two-dog night.


  1. What do you mean, no millet here? It is called "dohan" in Hebrew, and even regular supermarkets, not only the health food stores, carry it! We eat it like bulgur, all the time!

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  3. Actually, just to help out, the first rain is called "ha'yoREH". "Yored geshem" simply means it's raining, or literally "rain is falling".
    It's in the second paragraph of the "Sh'ma" that we recite every day: "V'naTAti m'TAR artzeCHEM b'itO, yo'REH u'malKOSH". "Then I shall provide rain for your Land in its proper time, the early and the late rains..." Malkosh is the last rain of the season, although I have no idea how you can tell it's the last one.

  4. WOW!! Everyone looks great in their Winter attire!

    Getting cold here... 39 this morning!! YIKES!!!

  5. The millet the birds eat comes on a stem -- like a stalk of wheat -- so they can peck it off the stem. The stuff that comes in bulk doesn't do them much good. Good to know, though.