If the municipality has its way, part of the center of town will be completely blacked out on November 11. No, the city's senior bureaucrats are not expecting a power cut or, God forbid, an outbreak of regional hostilities. The black in question is the de rigueur dress code for the Black Party to be held on levels 1 and 2 of the underground parking lot beneath Kikar Safra starting at 10 p.m.
The municipality has lined up the party as a multipurpose event aimed at the younger crowd, with some of the inspiration coming from foreign climes.
"We took the name from the black parties they have in Holland to mark the start of the winter activities there," explains Yoram Braverman, manager of the municipality's social department with responsibility for young people and the academic sector. "But we diversified and ran with the idea."
One of the main aims of the Black Party is to try to reduce the number of traffic accidents involving young people, making sure they are aware of the perils of mixing drinking alcohol with driving.
"I haven't got all the statistics," says Braverman, "but it is clear that most of the people involved in road accidents are young people aged between 18 and 35. We want to get that message across, but in a positive and friendly way."
Braverman and the municipality have certainly pulled out all the stops in terms of the entertainment they have laid on and in doing their best to make sure the patrons have fun but also don't endanger themselves or anyone else on the roads after the party. There will be anti-drink driving slogans located around the parking lot area; and car wrecks, wheels up, will be strategically placed around the party venue. While that may sound like a somewhat harsh in-your-face tactic, Braverman begs to differ. "We are not trying to scare anyone or make anyone feel bad," he says, "but we want all the youngsters at the party to know they must not go beyond a certain alcohol limit if they want to drive home after the party."
The Black Party is also part of a municipality drive to ensure the 40,000 students in various institutions around the city feel at home, that they have access to all the information they need about the city's services and that they avail themselves of the benefits on offer. "We will have stalls and information stations on the campuses to help the students obtain, for example, reductions on arnona [property tax] without having to go all the way to the municipality building," Braverman continues. "All they will have to do is complete an arnona discount request form at the stall, and we will do the rest."
Meanwhile, back at the Safra parking lot, the youngsters in black will be able to groove to Reggae Stan and his high-energy dub output; and there will also be a couple of DJs and a VJ. But the high point of the evening's proceedings will arrive when popular crossover US-Israeli band Balkan Beat Box - of Ori Kaplan, Tamir Muskat and Tomer Yosef - takes the stage.
"We are not aiming to lecture to young people about drink-driving," says Braverman. "We want people to have fun, but to do it safely. There will be alcohol on sale at the party, but there will also be non-alcoholic drinks for the drivers."
And, just in case, any of the partygoers has any doubt about their ability to drive home safely after the fun ends, breathalyzer kits will be available. "The kits are very easy to use, and the driver will immediately know whether he or she should get behind the steering wheel," Braverman says. "Hopefully that will help to reduce the possibility of accidents occurring on the roads."
The municipality is also looking to use the Black Party to get a marketing message across to students and youngsters all over the country. Contrary to the popularly held belief - certainly in many parts of Tel Aviv - that Jerusalem is a sleepy town with little to offer young people, Braverman feels that the capital has a lot going for it. "We put this event together from scratch. There is no other municipality anywhere in the country that provides such services and entertainment opportunities," he says, adding that the department is organizing a jazz festival later in the month. "The festival will run from November 9 to November 15 at different venues in the city. We want young people to feel at home in Jerusalem, and we want them know this city has lots to offer. We'd like students to stay in Jerusalem even after they finish their studies."
The jazz festival gigs will feature some of the acclaimed Israeli artists who currently reside in New York, including the likes of drummer Aviv Cohen and bassist Omar Avital, as well as veteran France-based American pianist Kirk Lightsey. The local jazz community will provide various ensembles featuring. for example, guitarist and effects artist Yonatan Albalak, Jerusalemite pianist Avishai Darash and experienced guitarist Ofer Ganor. The shows will be held at the Feingold Yard, the new auditorium at the Jerusalem Theater, Pub Hakatzeh and the Dublin pub.
According to Braverman, the municipality had lots of things to consider before putting the Black Party agenda together, not least whether to make alcohol available at all. "We thought about that, but we wanted to convey the drink-drive message there, specifically at an event where people can drink alcohol. We wanted to get the message across in a language that young people will understand, with VJ art and music and other eye-catching elements. In the old days we made do with some boring TV public service announcements, but times have changed and the municipality has, too."
Braverman is expecting several thousand students and other young people to turn up for the Black Party and, hopefully, everyone will have a good time and get home safely.
A promotional clip about the event is available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=-N3MljLKjOc. More information can be obtained from the municipality Web site: www.jerusalem.muni.il.
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