I was pleasantly surprised by something that I saw last night on my way home from the Jerusalem Beer Festival. I’ll get to that in a moment, but first a word about the Festival.

It cost 35 Shekels (roughly $10) to get into this year’s Jerusalem Beer Festival. It was held in Independence Park this year, just off of King George Street in the center of town. I generally do not go to such events as I feel that it is wrong to ask people to spend money just to get into a place where they will need to spend money (e.g. Disneyland). It’s like charging admission to get into a shopping mall.

I decided to make an exception this time because I thought that there would be plenty of free beer. I was wrong. The different beer sellers were charging five to ten Shekels just for a small taste of their beer.

I went with a friend and got there just when it opened. I did this because I knew that at the beginning of the evening it would be easier to talk the sellers into giving you a free sample and I was right. While I did buy a couple of beers over the course of the evening, I made sure to get my money’s worth out of the free samples. At six O’clock, when the place was still empty, the vendors were willing to give out samples. Later in the evening they stopped. I should point out that only the micro breweries did this. The name brands did not.

One reason why I decided to pay for the admission to the festival was the added attraction of a live band. It did not take the stage until 10 P.M. I don’t remember who it was and prefer not to. They were terrible. The singer couldn’t sing and their songs sucked. Not surprisingly, most people did not seem to pay any attention to them.

There was also a variety of foods served. That is if six constitutes a variety. One place had cheap hamburgers and hot dogs as well as Chinese Noodles. Another for some reason offered a choice of baked potatoes or French Crepes.

So this is what happened later. It was exactly 11P.M. when I found myself passing by the little circular park at the Bottom of Agrippas near King George Street. This is one of the places which have unfortunately been turned into hang outs for seedier types at night. Apparently, and fortunately, it is now illegal to drink in public after 9P.M., at least in Jerusalem. I found this out last night.

Three English kids, all eighteen years old, were hanging out there eating pizza and drinking beers. Two policemen in the special black uniforms came by and took their names. They did not give the kids a ticket or anything like that, but they poured out all of their beers as the kids pleaded with them not to.

“Please, please don’t do that,” they begged. “O.K. we’re leaving just let us keep the ones that are closed. Why do you have to also pour out the ones that are still in the bag?” They had about eight half liter cans of Heineken in several plastic bags. The two police officers opened and poured out all of the beer onto a patch of dirt by a small tree. I hope the tree didn’t get too drunk. The police did this as the kids begged to be left some beer to have for Shabbat. “That’s it! I’m leaving Israel and the country won’t get any more tax money from me,” shouted one of the kids, as they walked off.

I asked the policemen why they did that. Why couldn’t they just let the kids keep the unopened beer cans? I mean that must have been at least 100 Shekels worth of beer that they threw away. “If we let them walk away with the other cans then they would just find somewhere else to go and still be drinking in public,” said one of the policemen. “If you are in a designated area in front of a kiosk or pub or restaurant then that’s O.K. Also, if we see someone walking down Ben-Yehuda with one beer then we wouldn’t stop them. But after 9 P.M. we don’t let people congregate in public places with alcohol,” he explained.

I loved every minute watching this. It’s about time. I am one of many who are tired of the kids and adults who hang out everywhere getting drunk and/or stoned. Now hopefully they’ll also crack down on the graffiti, public urination, littering and a whole bunch of other things. I’m still waiting for Jerusalem’s “Giuliani Time.”

If anyone thinks that I’m being hypocritical here, remember I was drinking last night at a beer festival. I never hang out drinking liquor at night on street corners.

About the author


Gil Tanenbaum made aliyah from New York after he completed college. He Has lived in Israel for over 20 years. He has an MBA from Bar Ilan University and is a contributor for various blogs.