Coping with Summer Heat

Today the high in Tel Aviv is scheduled to be 36° Celsius, or about 97°. Those of you who are new to Israel might think that summer has started. But spring is still ahead of us, albeit interspersed with a few more chamsinim (hot, dry spells followed by a fierce wind sprinkling a thick layer of sand over everything). My sister-in-law told me that the word chamsin comes from Arabic for 50, because it occurs during the seven weeks between Pesach and Shavuot (we’re talking about Jewish Arabic speakers here, obviously). Remember that Pesach is late this year and as the first full moon after the spring equinox has just passed, we should have had our seder already. That’s why some others are already celebrating their spring holiday. That crazy leap year. Anyway, we shouldn’t give up on spring, my favorite time of year here in the “suburbs” of sunny Tel Aviv.

There are only three seasons in Israel: summer, winter and spring. The Hebrew word for fall, stav, means winter in ancient Hebrew. Fall doesn’t exist. Spring, though, is wonderful, with cool evenings and warm and sunny days.

So while it’s probably safe to put away the warm undershirts and flannel sheets after the coldest winter in years, you’ll likely want access to your long-sleeved t-shirts well into May. Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to miss them come June.

I’ve read that because of desert expansion, the hamsinim have not been sticking to the calendar lately. We have experienced them in December, but nothing as severe as today. In the meantime, here are some suggestions for dealing with a hamsin, or sharavas it’s known in Hebrew. Feel free to add more in the comments.

  • Close all of your trisim (shutters) and windows during the day. Leave a tris open a peek for light, or turn on a small electric light (preferably florescent). This will keep the sun, air and sand out, and we avoided using the a/c. Israeli homes are built to withstand the heat more than the cold, so you may as well take advantage of it. You can open everything up at night, but beware of the sand.
  • For drinking water, we freeze half-full bottles and fill them with tap water. That way they stay cold while the refrigerator stays closed.
  • Don’t leave out any food out as it will dry up in mere seconds.
  • You can hang laundry if you can stand being outside, but only if there is no sand. I think some veteran Israelis will dispute this one.

And speaking of the calendar, we’re heading into the “clock of the summer” this Thursday evening. As usual, it coincides precisely with the date that Shabbat is starting to “come in” at a normal hour.


  1. I love the heat. Makes me feel alive.

  2. mominisrael says

    Jack: Come try it first. I know people who enjoy our miserable summer, but no one who likes a hamsin.
    Batya, but it always ends with a sandstorm.

  3. I consider sandstorms something else. this weather is more like living in a clothes dryer.

  4. If the dryness of the air bothers you and you want to avoid using the a/c, try pouring cold water on the floor and then turn on a fan for cold evaporation. Or hang up wet sheets in the living areas. That’s what my Jerusalem relatives used to do in pre-a/c days. (It’s much dryer in J’lem than in the TA region in the summer).

  5. My sister-in-law told me that the word chamsin comes from Arabic for 50
    That’s correct…but I thought it was for 50 degrees celcius (in the shade)

  6. Jeremy Jacobs says

    It’s been snowing in London!

  7. Re your suggestion for freezing water in the bottle: You forgot to mention the trick you taught us: wrap the bottle in a sock when you take it out of the freezer to reduce condensation damage (water all over your back-pack).

  8. Will the sand settle on my laundry drying outdoors? So far I haven’t noticed. But I hate the heat, and was glad to hear this Sharav is short-lived. Relief on the way tomorrow.

  9. Hey, that sock idea is a good one. I wonder if it also keeps the water colder longer?