Second World War

Snowball Fight in Jerusalem

This evening a good friend of mine shared this beautiful photo of a snow-covered Dome of the Rock.  It is the first time in four years that snow has fallen in Jerusalem and it looks like the locals are enjoying the novelty.  According to this article it is the heaviest snowfall there since 1992.

To be honest I’d never really given the topic of Jerusalem’s snowfall statistics much thought except for a bit of a coincidence.  Earlier this evening I’d been looking through an album of photographs taken by a New Zealand serviceman in the Second World War when I came across this snap.

Kiwi Soldiers enjoying the snow in JerusalemLemuel Lyes Collection

Kiwi Soldiers enjoying the snow in Jerusalem – January 1942.
Lemuel Lyes Collection

Often when I find an album of old photographs in a second-hand bookstore or at an auction they are lacking provenance or any information to help identify the context.  I’m lucky that in this instance the original owner had written on the back of the photo.

“Here is snow in Jerusalem.  This was the heaviest fall for 25 years”

The rest of the album is all of New Zealanders at home and in the Middle East, so it seems likely that the snowball wielding figures in this snap are New Zealand soldiers.  Also if you look closely at one of the soldiers in the background you can see what is almost certainly the distinctive Kiwi lemon squeezer hat.

There was no date for the photo but after a bit of searching I found this article in a digitized newspaper collection at the National Library of Australia.

Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 - 1954), Thursday 15 January 1942, page 1

Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 – 1954), Thursday 15 January 1942, page 1

Also this article here

The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), Tuesday 6 January 1942, page 1

The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), Tuesday 6 January 1942, page 1

I love that digitized newspaper collections are making it easier to placate my insatiable appetite for historical trivia and am thoroughly amused by the concept of Australian soldiers having snowball fights with Arabs in Jerusalem.

I also found another amazing photo here on flickr of what looks like not just a snow fight but a FULL ON SNOW WAR!  I’m wondering if that photo was taken during the same snowfall.

it is funny how some human reactions never change.  I imagine that two thousand years ago Roman soldiers in Jerusalem would’ve dropped their weapons and thrown snowballs at each other just as eagerly as the Allied servicemen did in 1942 or as the locals are doing now in 2013.  Some simple pleasures are timeless.

© Lemuel Lyes

4 replies »

  1. I can vouch for the snow in Jerusalem. Some years back I decided to leave the Moshav where I was working in the Negev desert on Christmas Eve and travel to Jerusalem. After many jokes about following stars and three wise men, myself and my two travelling companions consumed many Goldstars (Israeli Speights) and then forgot we hadn’t booked somewhere to sleep. After crashing out in a bus stop outside the walls of the Muslim Quarter in the Old City, we woke to snow falling…freakin surreal.

  2. Great photo. And isn’t it amazing how many albums are still out there – unseen, perhaps unremembered – but rediscoverable. A lot of the Kiwi soldiers at Maadi were able to get away to Palestine for leave – inspired, apparently, by the names and places they had heard of in Sunday school. The whole of 2 NZ Division finally went there in early 1942, and on into Syria; after the CRUSADER debacle at the end of 1941, Lt-Gen Freyberg was determined to get the Kiwis away from Middle East Command. They came rushing back, effectively to the rescue of the 8th Army, in June when Rommel struck Tobruk and sent the British retreating helter-skelter back towards Egypt.

    • Yes it does sometimes surprise me how many albums still show up at auctions, book shops, junk shops etc. I’m sure that even today some sadly end up in tips when people don’t give any thought to what historical value they might have.

      I’ve never been too sure exactly what the Kiwis were doing in Palestine at that time, thanks for clearing it up for me!

      I’ve always thought of it as one of those “shared war” experiences like Cairo, with many NZders following in the footsteps of the previous generation who were there in 1917/18. (Well the bulk of the Mounted Rifles at least). I’ve read many accounts of soldiers fighting through Palestine then that were certainly inspired by the place names as you say.

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