The State of Israel is turning 68 and the amount of ways to celebrate the occasion in Jerusalem is innumerable. The city center is the place to be – on Wednesday night, May 11 there are street parties, a huge Israeli folk dancing event and lots of parties in the local bars.

Read about it all below.

First, what you need to know

When is it

Yom Haatzmaut, Israel Independence Day, generally falls on the fifth day of the Hebrew month of Iyar. This year it is being celebrated one day early so that it doesn’t fall on Friday, from Wednesday evening to Thursday evening, May 11-12, 2016.

How is it celebrated?

Israel Independence Day is celebrated immediately following the very sad and emotional Israel Day of Remembrance. Traditionally, after expressing honor, respect and gratitude towards those who gave their lives for the country, the sun sets, the flags are raised and 24 hours of celebrations begin.

At night there are parties all around the country and during the day people have BBQs, enjoy free entrance to museums and watch the spectacular Israel Air Force show overhead.

What to expect Wednesday night downtown…

The weather this Independence Eve promises to be a typical cool Jerusalem evening and so you’ll want to have a sweater with you. Many roads are closed and thousands take to the street of downtown Jerusalem, singing, dancing and… well, some seem to enjoy using string and foam spray, as well as bopping people on the head with blue and white squeaky rubber hammers.

Point being, go with an open mind and don’t wear your favorite cashmere sweater.

It’s best not to arrive by car though the Safra Square parking lot is free that night. The Jerusalem light rail will run straight through the  night and the night bus lines will run late into the night as well.

Read more about closed roads and public transportation here.

The events downtown

There are some huge street parties and dozens of events at the bars around the city center. Here’s a quick overview:

1. Singalong & Israeli dancing at Safra Square

1 singalong | 1,000s in the cutest of fashion doing Israeli folk dancing | 9:30pm singalong | 12am dancing | free entrance | read more

2. The huge Ben Yehuda rave

9 DJs | 3 stands | 1 street | 9:30pm-2am | free entrance | for ages 18+ | read more

3. The main stage at Hahatulot Square

7 of Israel’s best musicians | 9:00pm | free entrance | open to all | read more

4. Fireworks over Independence Park

10:30pm & 12am | colors in the sky

5. INDIEpenDANCE on Hahavatzelet

3 stages | 5 Israeli indie performances | 10pm-2am | free entrance | for ages 18+ | read more

6. Events in local bars

Lots of venues | Lots of events | the map


Photo c/of the Jerusalem Municipality