Jerusalem is a city that measures time by the millennium. Built by King David, rebuilt time and time again, it has made its mark on history as a city of God, and as the yearned for symbol of Zionist statehood and sovereignty, Jerusalem of Gold. As the capital of modern Israel it is the seat of government and law. The Western Wall marks the single most important place on earth for the Jews, Christian and Muslim pilgrims fill Jerusalem’s streets as well.
I have been blessed to be a community leader and activist in this city at a very exciting time. The last ten years have witnessed an economic, social and civil rebirth. Without a doubt our Mayor, Nir Barkat, deserves much credit for the trend. I serve as the chairman of the board of our local community council, and Mayor Barkat has been a partner, a model, and an inspiration in restoring our local institution to fiscal health and communal vibrancy.
But when it comes to Formula One road shows in Jerusalem I think the mayor has found the wrong formula.
There is a stark dissonance between the spiritual soul of this city and roaring engines of race cars zooming through her streets. Clearly this is part of the esthetic appeal in the event, I get it, but the line is thin between evocative contrast and provocative discord. I believe that line has been crossed and I would like to wave a red flag instead of a checkered one.
I would not want to be a party pooper, as a matter of fact I am a regular runner in the Jerusalem Marathon, another one of Barkat’s pet projects. The cosmopolitan image of our city is given a boost by the marathon, an event that despite its Hellenistic roots revolves around values of health, outdoors, simplicity and community spirit. I believe that the Jerusalem Marathon will outlive the current Mayors terms, a lasting legacy for perhaps centuries. I share his dream that it will find a place of honor on the list of races any world runner would have to do at least once in his life.
On the other hand I predict that Formula One races in Jerusalem will disappear the day Nir Barkat leaves office. It will disappear because it is a travesty of wastefulness, using much needed public funds for a here today gone tomorrow shot of machismo and adrenalin. It will disappear because at least as many people are offended by it as love it. It will disappear because the gravity of this city’s history demands at least minimal standards of depth and quality, and this event is a sad experiment in emptiness.