Motor sports in Israel have officially been given the green light after the Sports Drivers Bill was passed in the Knesset on Wednesday.
"This is a day of celebration for the drivers as well as the thousands of motor racing fans in this country," MK Ehud Rassabi (Shinui) told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday.
"It is absolutely crazy that until today Israel was one of only a few countries in the world where racing was forbidden by law," he added.
The newly formed Israel Racing Federation hopes to promote nationwide carting, Raleigh car racing and motor biking by hosting events in stadiums and on several off-road tracks across the country.
Since the bill was first proposed back in 2001, drivers Aviv Kadashi and Danny Levy have been petitioning the Supreme Court to legalize competitive racing.
Levy, 52, a member of the World Racing Federation for 30 years, has been forced to ply his trade abroad in places like Cyprus or Germany.
"Israel has the perfect topography for this kind of racing, with its numerous hills and mountains," Levy said.
The bill had been staunchly opposed by Shas MK Amnon Cohen for fear that Shabbat might be violated. However, two weeks ago, Cohen agreed to allow the Education Committee to deal with the issue. After a number of minor changes were made, the bill was resubmitted and approved by the Knesset.
"A couple of years ago I was even arrested for racing illegally in Israel, but I'm certain that the case will now be dropped," Levy said.
He acknowledged that a Formula One circuit in Tel Aviv may be a long way off, but pointed to racing team Minardi's recent recruitment of Israeli driver Chanoch Nissani as proof that Israel is making a name for itself on the world stage.
Included in the Sports Drivers bill is a clause that allows children as young as eight to start racing, albeit within the confines of closed and secure tracks. Racing drivers will be issued with special licenses and must conduct themselves in accordance with international racing regulations.
Ratzabi pointed to the wider benefits of the move.
"I wholeheartedly believe that racing drivers will greatly contribute to Israel's economy and tourism as well as going some way to improving the negative image of the Israeli driver," he said.
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