The festivities began at sundown Tuesday, with well-known Israeli musicians performing at Zion Square, at the end of Ben Yehuda Street.
A large crowd gathered, filling the entire square and packing Ben Yehuda and its side streets. The crowd consisted mostly of young people, but a wide mix of others were milling about as well, including tour groups and families with baby strollers. Off-duty soldiers danced alongside kippah-wearing students and long-skirted women, though it wasn't unusual to see kippah-wearing soldiers or long-skirted women in uniform either. A panoply of languages could be heard in the crowd - Amharic (the language of the Ethiopian community), Russian, English and French - but mostly Hebrew. A mix of all ethnic groups could be seen.
Orange ribbons against the Disengagement, as well as future withdrawals, were still visible on backpacks and purses, as well as accompanying Israeli flags tied onto lampposts and balconies.
Vendors sold cotton candy (called "grandmother's hair" in Hebrew) along the city center's main streets. Revelers wore little electronic blue and white blinking lights and stalked the streets with the ubiquitous plastic and rubber hammers. It has somehow become a tradition to bop one's friends on the head with plastic or blow-up rubber hammers, some printed with Israeli flags on them. Excited youngsters bopped each other, as well as strangers, throughout the night. Another tradition has become the spraying of white shaving-cream. As the evening progress, the walls and sidewalks became adorned with Jewish stars and Hebrew names of friends made from the shaving cream.
Other celebrations occurred in other parts of the city, including the Haas Promenade in Talpiot, a popular and scenic spot for viewing the fireworks display.
The next day most shops and all government offices were closed as families and friends gathered for barbecues in public parks, national forests and nature preserves across the country and even along the sides of highways. The radio played patriotic songs, including vintage classics played by IDF bands.
The IDF opened Navy and Air Force bases in Haifa, Eilat, Sde Dov, Ramat David, and Tel Nof to the public as various IAF aircraft flew the length and width of the country, providing those below with views of various flight formations and maneuvers.
More than 5,000 people took part in a hike in the Nachal Kaneh nature preserve, located in Samaria. The hike was organized by the Samaria Regional Council. At the trail's end, organizers held a ceremony dedicating the new Sha'ar Kaneh Park, at the preserve's entrance. The new park was established by the regional council in conjunction with the ministry of tourism and development. The trails and park facilities are handicapped-accessible.
Ezra HaLevi contributed to this report
Benyamin Bresky is host of The Beat on Israel National Radio. He maintains
a music journal at http://www.israelbeat.tk