Less than one week after Jews began praying on Sukkot for winter rains, God showered rain down upon the Holy Land, albeit a bit too generously in some regions.
In the shmona esrei (eighteen blessings) that comprise the daily prayers, special sections are added in the appropriate seasons to ask for rain to sustain Israel. In the summer, when rain generally does not fall and can in fact be harmful to agriculture, the prayer is modified to ask God for dew. Last week, during the holiday of Sukkot, the prayer for rain was inserted, signifying the change of seasons. In Temple times, a water libation was included in the Temple service as a supplication for rain. A full-dress reenactment of the water libation last week may have been a contributing factor to the change in weather.
On Thursday, three days after the Jews began praying for rain, scattered showers fell for the first time this season in the southern and eastern regions of the country, accompanied by a dramatic drop in temperatures.
Flash flood warnings are in place for low-lying regions. Many arid areas in Israel have wadis, riverbeds that remain dry most of the year but can fill suddenly when rain falls. The flooding can be violent and unsuspecting hikers can be suddenly overwhelmed by a torrent of water. The area surrounding the Dead Sea and the Arava, the arid plain between the Dead Sea and Eilat, are especially prone to this dangerous phenomenon.
Overnight on Thursday, 3.25 inches of rain fell in Eilat, more than the city on the shores of the Red Sea receives in an average year. Residents woke up to flooded streets Eilat Airport was closed, flights being diverted to nearby Ovda Airport.
Sandstorms have also been reported in the Negev, the arid region in the southwest of Israel.
The divinely inspired weather is expected to turn more mild by the weekend, though winter has most definitely begun.