Mahane Yehuda Market.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Jerusalem Formula road show was set to zoom down Jerusalem’s storied avenues for the second year in a row, from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday outside the Old City walls, resuming the next day in the same time slot.
Supported by Kaspersky Lab and other corporations rather than taxpayer shekels, the display is a feather in the Holy City’s cap, creating youthful energy and excitement that is said to invigorate businesses. The event was trumpeted by Mayor Nir Barkat on Sunday as “[sending] the world a message that Jerusalem is an open and inviting city – a city of culture and sport enjoyed by all residents and all visitors.”
Yet many residents of the capital are decidedly less sanguine due to the questionable timing of the event, in the thick of the holidays, immediately after Yom Kippur and right before Succot, one of Judaism’s major festivals, which begins Wednesday night.
Monday and Tuesday are schooldays and workdays for the majority, with people all over Jerusalem struggling to ensure their kids get to school and they themselves get to work, alongside holiday shopping and preparations that must be done in time to welcome family and guests.
This is doubly complicated now, with major city arteries, such as Agron, King David and Emek Refa’im streets, along with sections of Keren Hayesod, closed throughout the day – from 11 a.m. Monday and 12 p.m. Tuesday until 8 p.m. both days – to accommodate the race cars, and normal bus service diverted on numerous lines.
Moreover, residents – many of them elderly and lugging shopping trolleys, or young mothers with baby carriages – who rely on the light rail for trips to the Mahaneh Yehuda market for their purchases, will be forced to squeeze their way onto extra-crowded trains, which will be dealing with the overflow of onlookers.
Beyond concerns over the logistics of preparing for the holiday, many are disgruntled that the decision to run the race through many of the city’s main streets will leave them stranded and forced to miss fun Succot-themed events at exactly this time – after a stressful “non-summer” dominated by Operation Protective Edge and right after the Yom Kippur fast – when people are finally relaxing and ready to enjoy the festival.
Finally, the event is largely spectator-oriented rather than participatory, and residents – who are largely unfamiliar with the sport – aren’t even guaranteed a seat to watch the proceedings.
“At the very least, the municipality could offer free seating for arnona-paying residents as compensation. Even if we’re not well-heeled enough to afford VIP tickets, we’re the ones putting up with all the inconvenience,” noted city resident Rahel Jaskow on a long Facebook thread on the issue.
While most people living in the capital are grateful for all Barkat has done to enhance culture here, the Jerusalem Formula road show feels like a vanity project for the mayor – making him, in this case, seem rather tone-deaf to the needs of his residents.