Last night I visited what is fast becoming one of my favourite yearly events. Chutzor Ha'ir began bringing Intifada-weary Jerusalemites back into the centre of town 2 years ago. On the first night that I visited I remember wandering down Ben Yehuda Street, tears welling in my eyes, thinking that this was what it used to be like in the summers before the Intifada began. In those heady days, you began to encounter crowds at the top end of the street and by the time that you reached the junction with Dorot Harishonim, next to Rimon and the Frozen Yoghurt place, you almost had to fight your way through the throng.
The centre of town was dead for a long time in Jerusalem. The initiative to launch Chutzot Ha'ir in the summer of 2002, after Operation Defensive Shield had brought a certain amount of relative quiet, has proven to be highly succesful; the formula has been tweaked somewhat and this summer there will be 8 weeks of themed festivities as Ben Yehuda and its adjoining streets become an open air mall complete with security guards with metal detectors stationed at all entrances to ensure unwanted visitors are kept out.
With a different theme each week, based this year on colour, the idea has clearly taken off - last night was packed - and Wednesday is traditionally a relatively quiet night. You'll find artisans flogging their wares, fast food from a wide variety of Jerusalem eateries, bars and street performers aplenty. In past years there have been bands playing gigs in Kikar Zion - I believe that this is continuing and will be going back to check the schedule on a regular basis - I missed Teapacks last week as I had to attend a stag party instead.
So come along down - bring your friends and family and party in Jerusalem's downtown!