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Israel's Seasons

The four seasons in Israel are not as clearly delineated as in other parts of the world. Many people insist that Israel has only two distinct seasons – summer and winter.


This notion is confirmed in the Bible as only these two seasons are called by named. In Genesis 8:22 God stated to Noah, “So long as the earth exists, zera (sowing time) and katzir (harvest), kar (cold) and chom (heat), kayitz (summer) and choref (winter), and yom (day) and lailah (night) will not cease.” From here forward no other seasons are named thus no names were given to spring and autumn. It has been reasoned since these seasons are not a significant part of the climate of Israel, there was no need to give them a specific name.



The two predominant seasons, summer and winter, are now as they were in Biblical times. Israel has a long dry summer. Summer is characterized by cloudless, brilliantly sunny days and a lot of heat. Some find the summers in Israel oppressively hot, particularly by the Mediterranean coast where it can also be humid. Winter is distinguished by, to put it simply, rain. The winters are mild, but still significantly cooler than the summer. The rain generally begins in October and continues through March. Many years the rain goes on for days with our stopping. This is the only rain Israel gets for the year. This weather pattern is identified as a subtropical Mediterranean Climate by climatologists.


The two other lesser seasons are somewhat more enticing in Israel as the days are more variable. While they are short, modern Israelis deemed it was necessary to have legitimate terms spring and autumn. Spring in Modern Hebrew is called “aviv” a term that does indeed come from the Bible. However, Biblically speaking, aviv does not refer to a season, but rather a month which references a stage of ripening barley (Exodus 13:4; 23:15). As this time occurs around the spring equinox, the term aviv was adopted as the term for the season between winter and summer.


While spring in Israel is short lived, it is a fantastically pleasant time. This is when the rains begin to taper off and the daily temperatures begin to rise. There are warm sunny days and days with showers, and sometimes both in the span on a day. The combination of rain and sun brings about the best part of an Israel spring – the blossoming wild flowers. Hillsides that will be brown all summer suddenly come to life in a rainbow of colors.


Like spring, autumn has an adopted term. The Hebrew word for autumn is “stav.” This again, is term from the Bible, but with only a single mention. In Song of Solomon, it states, “For you see that the winter (stav) has passed, the rain is finished and gone.” So stav really refers to the winter as the passage is speaking about the rains of the season. Stav as the term for autumn came into general usage in a book called “Nature Studies” (Limudei Hateva) by Mordechai Yaweel published in 1836. He needed a word for the time between the relentless heat of the summer and the constant rains of winter. Stav was the closest he could find in Biblical Hebrew. Thus, a new usage for the word came into being.


Autumn is another short season often only lasting a month to six-weeks. Autumn is first noticed in the nights as they get cooler and cooler. Eventually the days also get cooler, but highs can still be in the 80s F (27-30 C). Like spring, the days are intermixed as sunny and rainy. Within one 24-hour period it is not uncommon for temperatures to range from 55 F (13 C) to 86 F (30 C).


But Israel is a land of exceptions and to simply say Israel has a Mediterranean Climate with two dominant seasons is not entirely accurate. The Negev desert in the south has a semi-arid environment where rain does fall in the winter, but the amount is negligible and usually comes in flash flooding torrents. Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights gets enough snow to ski in the winter while the rest of the country remains without. Eliat at the southern tip has beach-going weather year-round.


Nevertheless, there is not really a bad time for weather in Israel. It just all depends on what you like.



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