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 by.

Every time one of the vaunted cars roared past – even if they couldn’t actually see it – the crowd cheered its approval.

The event, 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 engineers.

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 attendees.

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 society.”

Elizabeth Awwad, of east Jerusalem, said hundreds of Arabs from her neighborhood were excited to attend the show, despite the high number of Jewish attendees.

“A lot of people came here from east Jerusalem,” she said.

“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 interesting.”

Asked if he thought the city should hold an annual Formula 1 race, Diamant said he was not sanguine about the prospect.

“Maybe in 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.

“We 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.”

Twelve-year-old Rami 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.”

“I don’t 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.

“It’s very 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.”

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