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Formula One race cars tear through Jerusalem streets

by ben June 20 2013
SportsMunicipal newsThings to do


Jerusalem dwellers were treated to a taste of F1 auto racing when drivers and vehicles from the Ferrari and Marussia teams put on an invigorating motorsport showcase this past Thursday and Friday on a 2.8-kilometer route that traversed the Old Train Station fairgrounds, the Old City Walls and King David Street.

Team Ferrari's three-time Grand Prix champ Giancarlo Fisichella zoomed past rows of bleachers set up around the Mamilla neighborhood at 240 kilometers per hour, and the crowd, hailing from all walks of life, went wild. Some 160,000 people are said to have checked out the action in person over the course of these two days. In addition to Fisichella, Marussia driver Rodolfo Gonzalez and 2012 World Superbike victor Massimiliano "the Roman Emperor" Biaggi also participated. Massimiliano's freestyle motorcycle stunt routene provided major thrills.

"It’s great to have the chance to drive a Formula One car on the streets of a city that is as fascinating and full of history as Jerusalem,” said Fisichella at the Formula One Jerusalem Peace Road Show's press conference launch event.

Driving for sport is in its infancy in Israel, having only become legal as of 2011. An estimated 100 Israelis are licensed to drive in this context.

The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), Formula One's governing body, has been aggressively expanding its reach to new territories in recent decades. While many locales are now enjoying new additions to the Grand Prix competitoon circuit, showcases like the one in Jerusalem are rare, as non-Grand Prix FIA events usually take the form of demonstration rallies in closed spaces.

Photo of a 2009 Ferarri Formula 1 automobile outside the Jaffa Gate courtesy of The Israel Project from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Jerusalem gets free science lessons in pajamas

by ben March 17 2013
NewsCity planningPop cultureThings to doThis week in Jerusalem

Under the framework of the "Science to the People" initiative (official website in Hebrew only), a Ministry of Science, Technology and Space-managed series of fun events targeting everyday Israelis for National Science Day, plebes were recently invited to storm the ivory tower.

Last week's edu-tainment included a talk on science and art over coffee and cake at the Israel Museum, a Hebrew University campus pub presentation on economics, and a series of home lectures called "Professors in Slippers," which saw thought leaders giving over their musings on tactonic plate moments, the emotional experience, public transport and pension scheme sustainability.

And it was all for free. Check it out.

Video by Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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The top five underground performance spaces in Jerusalem

by michael February 12 2013
Best of JerusalemArtMusicThings to do
Uganda in Jerusalem
You'd never recognize Weird Al since the haircut

Much is made of the youth exodus plaguing Jerusalem, a cascade of bright young people squeezed out every year by skyrocketing rents, poor municipal management and sometime intolerance by more conservative sectors of the population, but were a Jerusalem visitor to situate themselves in the slice of downtown between the HaNeviim Street and Hillel Street, they would find a youth culture more culturally vibrant, artistically engaged and politically aware than any in a city three times the size of Jerusalem. What Jerusalem's underground community lacks in numbers, it makes up for in enthusiasm and the sort of civic pride peculiar to groups who buck the dominant culture. The pierced, tattooed Anarchist Against the Wall radical, the heretically-inclined but still devoutly faithful ultra-Orthodox Jew, the Russian-born lady electro DJ and the Palestinian drag queen may not fit the stereotype of a Jerusalem resident, but the city is theirs too - and they would be the first to tell you so.

So where can you meet the ambassadors of the Other Jerusalem? Let Jerusalemite show you the way with our list of the top five underground performance spaces in Jerusalem.

The British government once floated the idea of establishing the Jewish state in Uganda rather than politically volatile Ottoman Palestine. It came to naught, but a century or so later Uganda established itself in the Jewish state...or at least a hip cafe/bar/record store/comics shop called Uganda did. Located on a downtown side street near the fortress-like headquarters of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and the shuttered Russian Compound, Uganda is ground zero for Jerusalem's young, secular and radical crowd, a cozy space where disaffected local youth and earnest foreign activists alike can gather to discuss art and politics, flip through local zines and comics, sample and purchase the latest in European underground electronica and hear Jerusalem's best indie DJs, all while nursing a bottle of Taybeh (the Palestinian beer). Performances by both DJs and bands take place almost nightly, although you'll have to make your entertainment choices carefully, because come nightfall the urban secular demographic is split by...

...Jerusalem's other underground watering hole and incubator for local avant-garde and independent talent. Sira is the successor to D1, AKA Diwan, a bar in the same extremely dark, somewhat grotty and most decidedly seedy nook off of Ben Sira Street. D1 in its heyday served as the de facto headquarters of young Jerusalemites dissatisfied with the status quo, whether Jewish, Arab or otherwise, and huge crowds gathered nightly to share pints, shots of whiskey and not-so-well-concealed hashish joints while dancing to (or aloofly appreciating) local bands and DJs - some of whom (like Hadag Nachash's Shaanan Street, former D1 bartender) went on to big things. Sira continues that noble tradition to the letter. From punk to reggae to electronica to hip-hop, local talent lights up the tiny floor every night, and you never know if the guy rapping might turn out to be the next Rebel Sun (another Sira success). Hunting down the performance schedule might take some work, though: Sira is so thoroughly underground that their schedule is distributed solely in postcard form. But the club will have to scramble a little harder for fresh DJ talent due to...

...the newest arrival on the underground local music scene, a nightclub devoted to the cult of the DJ. Affiliated with heavy-hitting local turntablists like Pacotek, DJ Dina, Markey Funk and Walter Einstein Frog, Bass, as its name might imply, throbs nightly with the sub-tonal thumps of electro, house, breakbeats, electronica, hip-hop, dancehall, reggae and other things that go bump in the night. A weekly dancehall and roots reggae show is a godsend (Jahsend?) for lovers of reggae in Zion, and Bass is your best bet for catching big-name local and foreign DJs spinning their booty-shaking (or hyper-minimalist) best.


Things are a little less aggressively trendy over at HaTaklit ("The Record"), a tribute to the beloved vinyl record in bar/performance space form. While nostalgia for the record may not be entirely justified, seeing as the performers and clientele of places like HaTaklit have kept the medium alive and spinning, any excuse to open a bar with plenty of beer on tap, English footie on the TV screens, record sleeves on the walls and independent performers from at home and abroad on the stage is good enough. And best of all, HaTaklit is a labor of love, founded by three local boys working in various sectors of the music industry who wanted a place where they could show off their collections and hire all their friends and favorite bands. Awwwww.

The Beit Avi Chai organization, a private foundation dedicated to fostering Jewish culture in Israel, may have a bit too much money for true indie cred, but they don't screw around when it comes to their underground music venue, Chet-7: the only underground space in Jerusalem that is literally underground (in Beit Avi Chai's parking garage, to be precise). Chet-7 scored big by getting Yerushalmi golden boy Shaanan Street of Hadag Nachash to serve as consulting curator, helping to choose promising artists (both up-and-coming and well-established) and organize shows. Chet-7 is most notable for its Saturday night concerts, affordable and intimate performances by some of Israeli music's biggest non-pop names aimed solely at the hometown crowd.

Lots of underground artists also appear at the Yellow Submarine, but as a Municipality-funded affair, its cred is suspect - even if its music, which encompasses otherwise overlooked underground musical forms like jazz, is excellent. And of course, no mention of underground venues would be complete without the late, lamented Daila, a one-time Shlomtzion landmark that served as salon, gallery and cafe for Jerusalem's proud radicals, artists, poets and weirdoes. Jerusalemite pours out this Taybeh in its memory. 

Photo of accordion antics and thumbnail photo of musicians at Uganda courtesy of ak-duck; photo of a DJ rocking Sira courtesy of dovi under a Creative Commons license; Bass photo courtesy of Bass; photo of Beit Avi Chai by Harry Rubenstein for Jerusalemite.

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Streetballin' in Jerusalem

by michael June 30 2011
Municipal newsSportsThings to do
Safra Square: better for basketball than government

Basketball. Long ago in the game's early days, before everyone realized they were not on the whole a very tall people, Jews were major players, significantly overrepresented on the court. And while the era of Jewish sports mastery has since passed, the Jewish state honors the Jewish heritage of basketball by reserving the sport second place in Israeli athletic affections (after soccer, of course). Maccabi Tel Aviv may be populated by nearly as many NBA castoffs as born Israelis, but they're our NBA castoffs, and we love them even if they sometimes embarrass us by losing to the Europeans.

Fortunately for basketball lovers in Israel, soon you'll have something to do other than read about which Americans and Brazilians are becoming Israelis under the Basketball Law of Return (The Law of Rebound?) - because it's time for the annual Jerusalem Streetball tournament. The tournament, which divides Safra Square into 16 basketball courts, is probably Israel's largest sports event open to any player, with teams divided by age. Public figures are getting in on the fun too, including players from the professional Israeli basketball leagues and Knesset ministers. Can those dour boys from Shas ball? Maybe you'll find out (or maybe not).

Other activities on tap include dunking contests, 3-point shootouts and showy performances by the Israel contingent of the And1 Streetball organization. Registration has already begun, so do not miss this once-a-year chance to shoot hoops with Israeli basketball's finest. You can register online at the Municipality's website, or in person at Safra Square. The tournament itself runs from 12 to 14 July.

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Beating the summer heat

by michael July 23 2010
WeatherFoodThings to do
Hot weather
It's brutal out there - just ask this dude

It's almost August in Jerusalem. This can mean any number of things - watermelon season is in full swing at the shuk, the Beer Festival is coming to town - but for many of us in Jerusalem, one thing will be most noticeable: It is really, really hot. Sure, the relative height of the Judean Hills and the occasional mountain breeze means that during the hot months Jerusalem residents suffer less than their compatriots in the Levantine bayou that is summertime Tel Aviv - but when it's 90 degrees and there hasn't been a cloud in the sky since March and the desert sun is glaring fiercely off the glowing white Jerusalem stone, the difference can seem at times to be mostly academic.

Jerusalemite doesn't want you to melt out there. Jerusalemite wants you to have only good feelings about Jerusalem - not a parched mouth, sunstroke and an unnecessary intimacy with local medical care. So here's some information about keeping yourself in the cool and out of the Hadassah emergency room.

  • If your skin is any lighter than the fuul on your hummus (not a scientific gauge), and you're going to be outside for awhile, put on some sunscreen. If your skin turns to bacon, you may run into trouble with some locals who have issues with that particular meat.
  • Wear a hat. Hats are spiffy, and they keep your head from sucking in an undue amount of sun.
  • Keep hydrated. This is damned important. It's easy to forget just how quickly the baking sun of the Middle East can deplete your body's vital water supply. Always carry a big 1.5 liter bottle of water (only 6 NIS usually) for everyone in your party if you're going to be walking around outside for any significant length of time.
  • Many stores, restaurants and hotels are air-conditioned. Take advantage of this fact. Step inside. Have a smoothie. Cool down. Take life slow. For what should you hurry?
  • If you're staying in an apartment without air conditioning (yes, these still exist), keep these key Hebrew words in mind: kivunei avir. It means "directions of air [flow]," and refers to a central concept in better Jerusalem construction. Unlike apartments in cooler countries which limit their windows to one wall and heat up like a pizza oven during summer, Israeli apartments almost always have windows on at least two sides to facilitate air flow and exchange. Open these windows. Put a fan in front of one. Feel sweet relief.
  • Eat an ice cream cone. You are in Jerusalem, and you deserve it.

Stay cool out there, peoples.

Image courtesy of noneck from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Matza hits the big time for Jerusalem

by ben March 25 2010
HolidaysFoodMunicipal newsNewsReligionThings to do


With just four days to go until the big holiday, Passover fever is sweeping Jerusalem, hard-core.

Preparations are underway for an extremely festive week, when Jerusalemites will be celebrating the Exodus in style, complete with loads of cultural offerings, an arts-and-crafts street fair, and even a festival showcasing the city's most impressive English-language performance ensembles.

But first, we need to burn our chametz and bake our matza (click through to check out awesome videos).

Speaking of baking matza, pictured above is the honorable Mayor Nir Barkat, posing with a world record-setting largest piece of matza ever. The oversized cracker measures over 3 meters in diameter and weighs in at 60 kilo. It was made by a team of 40 people, two of whom wore rappelling gear to be able to reach the edges while hanging from above. Try hiding that afikoman.

The matza went on display at Safra Square today, as part of a pre-holiday "toast" (nyuk) for City Hall's employees. Barkat is posing with Aryeh Goldberg, one of the owners of the Irenstein Matza factory, which spearheaded the baking, and Racheli Ivenboim, the CEO of the Meir Panim NGO, whose headquarters plans on displaying the matza to the general public through the end of the holiday.

Of course, this is hardly the first world record set in Jerusalem. In recent months, we've witnessed the unfurling of the world's largest flag, the grilling of the world's largest serving of meurav Yerushalmi, and the whipping of the world's largest plate of hummus. The jury is still out, though, on which of the four world record-breaking events is least nightmare-inducing.

Happy Passover, lovers of Jerusalem, from the Jerusalemite team.

Photo courtesy of Yossi Mor for the Municipality of Jerusalem.

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Get out your graggers, it's time for Purim

by michael February 25 2010
HolidaysFor the kidsPhotographyReligionThings to do

Once again, it's Purim in Jerusalem, where we celebrate the salvation of the Jews of ancient Persia a day later and a lot harder. This year's panoply of Purim partying includes plenty of unique holiday-themed events, street theater performances all over town, and a pitched battle between students of Hebrew U. and the Bezalel Academy to see who can throw the wildest Purim soiree at the Jerusalem Theatre. Right on.

And to whet your appetite, check out this photospread of Jerusalem Purims past, produced by our big sister website,

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New and easier ways to get to and see the Old City

by michael February 15 2010
City planningMunicipal newsThings to do


Jerusalem is a great city for pedestrians, but it's cruel for the motorist. First-time visitors to Jerusalem who think renting a car might be a great way to breeze through all the sites and landmarks are in for a bit of a surprise - the Old City is not car-friendly, and parking ain't easy.

Fortunately, the city government has actually implemented a plan to address that. The Old City has been closed off to all non-residential vehicular traffic, and to compensate, parking rates have been slashed at three lots within walking distance of the Old City, and a retooled local bus line, the 38, has been inaugurated to take tourists from the lots straight into the Old City's heart.

To see the new route map and find out about deals at city parking lots, read on.

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Boom Pam brings tuba to the Bass

by ben June 14 2009
MusicPop cultureThings to do


On June 23, celebrated low-fi jammers Boom Pam, who are signed to Frankfurt's Essay Recordings and often traverse Europe with their concert tours, are scheduled to play downtown Jerusalem party venue Bass.

Many have classified the tight drums-guitar-tuba trio as Balkan groove-based, but guitarist Uri Brauner Kinrot objects. "I don't like that moniker," he recently told The Jerusalem Post's Asi Gal. "Although our music has an asymmetric sound, which resonates Balkan music, we also play rock, oriental, Jewish and surf music. But people hear the tuba and think Balkan."

Essentially, the band plays music to party to. "There are enough doleful songs in Israel, "continues Kinrot. "We just want to bring about a good atmosphere and good vibes."

The band has recorded two albums to date. The eponymous debut, recorded in Germany, was dominated by original compositions and favored a relatively polished Middle Eastern sound. With last year's follow-up, Puerto Rican Nights, Boom Pam went for more edge and more of a wide scope: "the sound and production is much more ours - more kicking and rough," as Kinrot puts it. And the tracks chosen for the album are exclusively covers that the band has been playing live for years. With help from guests like Maor Cohen and members of Groovatron, the disc includes tributes to classic Israeli act the Dudaim, local movie soundtracks from the Sixties and even American proto-surf rocker Dick Dale.

The Puerto Rican Nights tour ought to be a treat, and a Jerusalem appearance for Israeli export talents like these is unfortunately a rarity.

Boom Pam is scheduled to hit the stage on Tuesday at 21:00. Additional events taking place on June 23, and on plenty of other dates, can be checked out via the interactive cultural calendar on our sister website,

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People from the fringes on display

by ben May 03 2009
PhotographyArtThings to doThis week in Jerusalem


Also known as the Musrara school, The Naggar School of Photography is beloved among Jerusalemites for its edgy cultural endeavors. The school's social issues-themed exhibition room is currently hosting All of Israel Are Friends, an appropriately provocative collection of photographs from 13 different artists, as curated by Daphna Ichilov, showing through June 26.

The exhibit opened back in February to much fanafare, which included experimental interactive elements for its first visitors. Check it out here:

The exhibit's moniker is a reference to the Hebrew name of France's Alliance Israélite Universelle, a Zionist organization founded in 1860, at a time when the Jews of Europe felst ike they were on the fringes of society and needed to band together. In contemporary Israel, we take it for granted that most Jews are not outsiders, although the images from this exhibit - which depict residents of development towns in the Negev, prostotutes, the handicapped and the elderly - make the argument that as a nation, we could use a bit more unity.

With Nir Barkat serving as Jerusalem's mayor, the city's many alternative arts institutions have been scheming for ways that they can band together and gain strength in the times of a culturally friendly administration - but, of course, such efforts should never be at the expense of the alternative arts cridibility that these organizations cling to so dearly. In this context, a walk through All of Israel Are Friends is all the more poignant: We're reminded that we ought to treat "the other" with kindness because we are all outsiders, and the reminder itself is being issued by an insitution that remains relevant by positioning itself as "the other."

Still more fringe art is showing this week with the Yellow Sumarine's show by New Yorker Ben Simon. Not interested in edgy visual statements? Prefer live jazz? Perhaps a community sing-along? Or a multimedia extravaganza? You won't be bored this week - check out our team's full cultural event calendar for Jerusalem, which is constantly being updated, over at our sister website,

Detail from Micha Kirshner's portrait of a foreign agricultural worker courtesy of The Naggar School of Photography, Media and New Music.

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