Israelis like to say that they live in a rough neighborhood.
This week, they were reminded that their neighborhood is also sandy, as a sandstorm swept in from Syria and Iraq.
The sky turned yellow, and breathing turned perilous.
Israelis were warned to stay indoors and hundreds sought medical treatment.
The clearest sign that sand respects no international boundaries could be found in a breathtaking photo of the region taken in space by NASA.
Meanwhile, some wag superimposed a picture of traffic in the yellow sandy air with the caption “tzulam beyom chol.” It’s a Hebrew joke that’s worth unpacking. Sometimes “chol” means sand, and sometimes it means not holy. So, the Hebrew phrase tzulam beyom chol generally means that a photograph was taken on a weekday — a caption used to reassure Orthodox viewers that a picture of, say, a Shabbat meal was staged rather than an act of Sabbath desecration. But yom chol means not only weekday; it can also mean sandy day.
Of course, chol hamoed — the intermediate days of a holiday like Sukkot — can also mean the sand of the holiday. Fortunately, the sandstorm is not expected to last that long.