The snow is finally, well, nearly gone. And just in time, because there’s some good stuff happening in Jerusalem until the end of the month, perfectly in sync to celebrate the official start of winter, this Saturday.

This week, the top five reasons to get to Jerusalem after the snow — trust us, it’s not worth coming to look at frozen chunks of graying snow — are mostly to do with design, art and the holy city.

1) Saturday night marks the start of Traces V — Beyond Paper, the 5th Biennale for Drawing in Israel. Curated this year by Tal Yahas, the main exhibition of the Biennale is at the Jerusalem Artists House — a fitting match, given that the charming gallery was initially the home of the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, the country’s first art school, and the first museum, until the Israel Museum opened. The Biennale for drawing, has, of course, always focused on pencil on paper. However, this year the exhibition “liberates drawing from the borders of paper,” said Yahas, releasing it from that medium and instead seeing what artists can do with a pencil in other mediums.

The Biennale includes several exhibitions, including at the nearby Ticho House, the Jerusalem Print Workshop, Barbur and Agripas 12 galleries, and features works of more than 90 artists. Be sure to start out at the Artists House, where the concept of pencil drawings is expanded to its most creative borders. Merav Svirsky used pencil and video to create an extraordinary presentation in Sisim 2012 (Common Swift), having filmed birds flying around her scrawled circles. There’s also the clever Herd of Horses (2013) by Elham Rokni, whose blurred wall pencil drawings of horses begin to gallop with the lines of light moving across the images. Jerusalem Artists House, 12 Shmuel Hanagid, Saturday night, December 21, 6 p.m.

At the Print Workshop for Traces V, by Mirit Cohen Caspi (Courtesy Traces V - Beyond Paper, The 5th Biennale for Drawing in Israel)

At the Jerusalem Print Workshop for Traces V, by Mirit Cohen Caspi (photo credit: Courtesy Traces V — Beyond Paper, the 5th Biennale for Drawing in Israel)

2) Be sure to visit the collaborating venues and their parallel exhibitions, which reflect on, and respond to, the concept of the main exhibition, all easily found on the Biennale website, designed just for the event. Each site will offer music and art performances on Saturday night, the opening night of the Biennale. And if it’s not too cold for you, consider heading over to the pedestrian-friendly stretch of nearby Schatz Street, where artist Eitan Ben-Chaim will be screening his wall work, “Still Drawing,” at 8 Schatz, from 6 p.m. – 2 a.m. Another intriguing event will be Documentary Embroidery, Musrara, an ongoing intervention with artists Aviv Kruglanski and Vahida Ramujkic with the residents of the Musrara neighborhood, as they work together on a traditional embroidery project. They have not posted the day and time yet, so check the Biennale site, or email for more information.

Eye-popping soups at Design Week (Courtesy Design Week Jerusalem)

Eye-popping soups at Design Week (photo credit: Courtesy Jerusalem Design Week)

3) Jerusalem Design Week opened Thursday night at the recently renovated Hansen House, the former leper hospital that has now become a media center; it houses a branch of the Bezalel Academy, as well as other media and design projects. Running through December 26, Design Week includes some events in conjunction with the Biennale, such as “Borderline” — two site-specific performance events curated by the Sala-Manca group at the Hansen House, with a focus on cartography, mapping, and the drawing of space (Tuesday, December 25, 7:30 p.m.). But the real standouts here are Asufa, a pop-up shop of Israeli designs; and Food Fab Lab, three food-design labs of local chefs and food designers cooking up their dreams. Erez Komorovsky led the first lab on Thursday night, but there are some winning teams over the next week. Check the Jerusalem Design Week site or Facebook page for more details on the exhibits, performances, and classes that will look at the process and development of consumer products. Jerusalem Design Week, through December 26, Hansen House, Gedalyahu Alon Street, German Colony.

Ghosts in the Shoofra shoe store window (photo credit: Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

Ghosts in the Shoofra shoe-store window (photo credit: Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

4) Take a self-guided tour of Street Stories, a competition for the best-designed shop windows among Jerusalem’s fashion, furniture and housewares stores and restaurants. It runs through December 26, and creates an opportunity to wander the streets of Bezalel, Schatz, Ben Shetach, King George, Shlomzion Hamalka, Ben Sira, Yanai and Koresh. Check out the ghosts in the Shoofra shoe store; the giant, wrapped couch in the Harmony furniture store window; and the objets d’art in HafatzimMaps showing the designed windows are available at participating shops and restaurants.

Fireworks over the Christmas tree in Jerusalem's Old City (photo credit: Sliman Khader/Flash90)

Fireworks over the Christmas tree in Jerusalem’s Old City (photo credit: Sliman Khader/Flash90)

5) If you’re celebrating Christmas next week in Jerusalem, know that the Ministry of Tourism is offering free transportation between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Buses will leave — according to demand — from Mar Elias Monastery to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and back again. They will operate nonstop from noon on December 24 through noon on December 25.

If you like Christmas, but don’t need to get to Bethlehem, check out the beautiful Christmas tree at Harmony (part of your Street Stories windows tour). And then wander down to the Old City, where it’s hard not to get into the Christmas spirit — particularly at Jaffa Gate, where a Christmas market will feature Christmas carols, dancing, and holiday treats for sale. The YMCA on King David Street is also hosting its annual Christmas carol concert on December 24, 7 p.m, NIS 25 per ticket.