"35 Jerusalem restaurants will be participating in the Hamshushalaim festival, offering special menus of a starter and main for either NIS 62 or NIS 92 per person or per couple." Rachel Wagner offers the low down on the hottest food and culture festival this side of the Mediterranean.

It's time to take advantage of all the eating, drinking, viewing, listening and sightseeing that the city of Jerusalem has to offer!

In its 4th year, Hamshushalaim is a 3 weekend long festival in Jerusalem starting Thursday, December 4th and running the following 3 weekends until December 20th. The festival's mouthful-of-a name is a Hebrew play on words: 'Hamshush' is an army term for a long weekend of Thursday, Friday, Saturday (Hamishi, Shisi, Shabbat) and 'Yerushalaim' (Hebrew for Jerusalem) contributes the second part of the name.

During Hamshushalaim various city and site tours will be taking place, including free tours, tours for disabled people and tours at a token cost. Free tours include: The Jewish Quarter, Mount Zion, The City of David, Ein Kerem, The Southern Walls, Nachalot, and Yemin Moshe and the Shaananim Quarter.

A huge variety of cultural events will also be offered for free or at a significant discount during festival weekends. One such event is the Tower of David Night Spectacle, during which the walls of the citadel disappear in a 3D illusion projected upon it creating a virtual reality experience. Tickets for this phenomenal open air show are discounted to NIS 30.

If you are a visitor to the city, 18 area hotels will be offering discounted accommodation – 10% to 35% off a first or second night's stay.

On the culinary front, 35 Jerusalem restaurants will be participating in the festival, offering special menus of a starter and main for either NIS 62 or NIS 92 per person or per couple. Participating restaurants include: Avi Ben, El Gaucho, Buffalo Steak House, Gabriel, Hess, Yotvata, La Guta, Polly, Canella, Agua, Ema, Bein HaKshatot, Glasgow, Wine Hall, Little Jerusalem, Link, Focaccia, Roy Chocolate, Agas and Tamar, Emil, Black Bar Burger, Darna, Zaza, Kerem, Montefiore, Pituim, Shipudai HaGefen, Ochlim BaShuk, Angelica, BeKtana, HaBayit HaPatuach, Tali Freidman, La Boca, Sofia and Kadosh. This wide variety of restaurants, pubs and cafés offer everything from a gourmet meal to a home-style feast. If you can read Hebrew, visit, http://www.2eat.co.il/hamshushalim4/ for additional information on each restaurant's specials. Otherwise, contact the restaurant directly.

In addition to scheduled festival events, Thursdays will offer wine tastings at wine shops across the city, Fridays will feature special meals of Jerusalem delicacies, and Saturdays bring Happy Hour at city bars and pubs.

To kick off the festival, a gala dinner was held in Jerusalem at museum "Asirei Hamachtarot", adjacent to city hall and the Russian compound. Upon entering, visitors were greeted by a kilted bagpipe player, a glass of wine from the Teppeberg winery and invited to explore the museum. Around 20 small booths were set up by local restaurants providing a broad sample of all the local culinary talent and a peak into the 2 course meals to be offered at many participating restaurants during the festival. Dishes included: Duck breast glazed with honey and salmon sashimi on a bed of grille eggplant from Canela, classic French chacouterie from Hess, a variety of fresh and perfect bruschetta from Emile and stunning dessert from Kadosh and Roy chocolate. Belhaven Scottish beer was on tap courtesy of Glasgow Bar and wine courtesy of Wine Hall, one of Jerusalem's top wine shops and Tepperberg Winery.

Hamshushalaim starts today, Thursday, December 4th, so make sure to get in on all the free, almost free or discounted fun that Jerusalem has to offer!

Additional reporting courtesy of Yonatan Sternberg