Holy City turns racetrack for F1 peace roadshow
The Ferrari and Marussia Formula 1 teams burnt rubber in the first Jerusalem F1 Peace Roadshow on Thursday, roaring around the Holy City at speeds of up to 240 kilometresper hour.
Tens of thousands of excited spectators were at the event, with some of the world's fastest cars tearing up the streets on a 2.8-kilometre circuit which passes below the walls of the Old City and ended at nightfall.
Large areas of the city were roped off ahead of the event which featured at least seven international racing drivers, as well as top Superbike and stunt riding champions.
Excitement rose as spectators, including many Palestinian families, would hear the loud cars approaching from afar, with people attempting to snap a picture of the fancy vehicles speeding by on cellphone cameras.
Ahead of the two-day roadshow, which will continue on Friday morning, police boosted security in and around the city, deploying 600 officers to secure the course and the surrounding area.
Three-time F1 Grand Prix winner Giancarlo Fisichella drove for Ferrari, and Venezuela's Rodolfo Gonzalez, who was recently named to the Marussia F1 team, also took part.
Max Biaggi, former world Superbike champion rode as did world stunt riding champion Chris Pfeiffer, who thrilled cheering audiences with his motorcycle moves.
Asked why the event was billed as a "peace roadshow", municipal spokeswoman Brachie Sprung said: "This unprecedented event in Jerusalem will enable spectators from all backgrounds and religions to gather together in awe and admiration of this momentous road show.
"Mayor (Nir) Barkat strongly believes that the love of sports can build a bridge between the people of Jerusalem, the region, and the world," she said in a statement emailed to AFP.
Speaking to the media ahead of the race on Thursday, Barket explained to AFP that the "peace" element of the race was in the fact that "sports, from my experience, bring people together with a message of peace and a message of coexistence."
"All people love motorsports, you'll see around the track Muslims and Christians and Jews from all neighbourhoods of Jerusalem who came to watch a sport they love, no politics – sports," he said.