The historic – and somewhat surreal – juxtaposition of the world’s fastest race
cars thundering past Jerusalem’s Old City walls drew thousands of enthusiastic
Jews, Muslims and Christians, who took in the spectacle together peacefully,
with a shared sense of awe and excitement.
Near Jaffa Gate, on a
promenade off Agron Street, hundreds of spectators of different religions stood
on their toes – video cameras held high above their heads – just to catch a
glimpse of the roaring state-ofthe art Formula 1 race cars speed
Every time one of the vaunted cars roared past – even if they
couldn’t actually see it – the crowd cheered its approval.
spearheaded by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, is part of Formula 1’s “Peace Road
Show,” featuring worldclass race cars and drivers representing Ferrari, Mercedes
and Audi – as well as a model constructed by Ben-Gurion University student
Shaul Krozer, an Orthodox Jew from Jerusalem, noted the
peaceful nature of the gathering as he stood near a group of Arab men and women
to take in the event.
“All we have all the time is fighting, fighting and
fighting, but everyone is here together and happy – Muslims, Christians and
Orthodox Jews,” he said. “There are no fights.”
Indeed, despite the
presence of an estimated 100,000 spectators, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld
said that not one incident of violence was reported.
The route of the
cavalcade went from the Cinematheque to Sultan’s Pool, on to the Tower of David,
through Mamilla Boulevard, past the King David Hotel, on to Liberty Bell Park,
by the Old Train Station, and back to the Cinematheque. As a result of the
closed roads, Jerusalem experienced traffic backups during the afternoon and
early evening, but it didn’t seem to douse the spirits of the
Krozer said that the event proved that Jerusalem remains a
city for people of all faiths and backgrounds.
“The Orthodox normally
don’t like such mixed parties, and a lot of Jews are running away [from the
city] because it has become too [religious],” he said. “But this event shows
that people want to stay and live here – that it’s still an open
Elizabeth Awwad, of east Jerusalem, said hundreds of Arabs from
her neighborhood were excited to attend the show, despite the high number of
“A lot of people came here from east Jerusalem,” she
“You see, I am Muslim and they are Jewish, and we are together. We
need to be together like this all the time and have no more fighting – not for
me but for [the] children. Enough war.”
Gabi Diamant, of Ra’anana,
attended the event with his two grandchildren.
“It’s a show, not a real
race, but nice for the Israeli public to see fast, expensive cars,” he said.
“It’s a leisure thing for the public, and it’s nice. There’s a contrast
between the Old City and the fast modern cars, so it’s
Asked if he thought the city should hold an annual Formula
1 race, Diamant said he was not sanguine about the prospect.
200 years it’ll be like the races in Monte Carlo,” he said. “But for now, I
don’t think we’re ready.”
Eyal Weintraub, a Formula 1 fan from the
capital, attempted to position himself well for a view of the cars, video camera
in hand, but found it difficult to penetrate the rows of onlookers also
jockeying for position.
“I’ve never seen Formula 1 in person, so I hope
it will continue to come to Israel as part of the circuit,” he said.
have such classic places to build a circuit in – the same as Monaco, which is
also a small city.”
Sophie and Simcha Sheldon said they came from
Hashmona’im to attend the event.
“I’m here because my husband wanted to
see it,” said Sophie with a laugh. “But I have to admit, the sound is quite
exciting.” Simcha added that he hoped the show would demonstrate Israel’s often
overlooked pluralistic and peaceful side to the world.
“I wanted to
participate in an event that shows Jerusalem is a city of peace and positive
life experiences,” he said.
“This clearly isn’t a picture of apartheid,
is it?” Simcha rhetorically asked, as he pointed to a crowd of Arabs
interspersed with Jewish spectators.
Sophie added, “Too many people don’t
know that Israel is a positive, modern and open society where people of all
backgrounds come together to have peaceful fun.”
Hodaly and his 11 year-old cousin Kareen Abousaid, both of Jerusalem, expressed
excitement at witnessing the historic event.
“It’s a once-in-a lifetime
opportunity,” said Hodaly. “I love the track and the sound.”
like cars usually,” Abou said. “But this is great because they are so fast and
the sounds are really high and the moves are amazing.
important that [Formula 1] thought to come here because I think Israel is a
really important country.”
Meanwhile, Abu Hanna, an octogenarian from
east Jerusalem, happily sat with his cane and several friends on a bench, far
away from all the action.
“I am from Jerusalem, so I wanted to be here,”
said Hanna. “There are too many people for me to see anything, but I will stay
because everyone is here, and I wanted to be here too.”