The Red Bull Soapbox Derby
So, it seems that Red Bull sponsors soapbox derbies in capital cities around the world. Yesterday, for the first time, the event came to Jerusalem, and I was there with my friend Batya. In a city so often wracked with tension, it was a relief to attend an event whose raison d'etre was to inject some silliness (and promote Red Bull energy drinks).
It was cloudy but very hot in Sacher Park, where the smell of hot dogs wafted through the air and thousands of Israeli adults and children watched 50 teams push whimsically-decorated soapboxes on wheels off a ramp, while one or two riders waved to the crowds as they slid down the street at about 5-10 miles per hour.
Before taking off, each team gave a 30-second presentation explaining their "concept." Teams were judged on the basis of creativity, showmanship, and speed down the track.
I didn't stay long, because of the heat and lack of visibility to the track (though they were showing everything on jumbotron screens around the park). The first soapbox, a giant carrot, took over 4 minutes to make it to the finish line. You could see the driver's feet under the vehicle, pedaling it along Flinstones-style. After that, contestants went more quickly, though some of them repeatedly crashed into the hay bales on the sides. The entries I saw included a pirate ship coasting along while the Love Boat theme played and the driver threw money at the crowds; a collection of three falafels in pitas; and Noah's Ark with the animals (built by a team of co-workers at the Jerusalem Zoological Center). My favorite was Jonah in the Whale: Just before takeoff, the team ripped apart the whale exterior so that Jonah, in long beard, white robe, and turban, coasted down the track in a little rowboat.
Batya said this event reminds her of the community-wide sing-a-longs popular with Jerusalemites. "Israelis appreciate good clean fun," she said.
What I appreciated most was that the whimsy was imbued with a distinctly Jewish-Israeli flavor: the Jonah entry, Noah's Ark, falafel, the fact that the hot dogs I smelled were kosher.
All in all a great way to spend a Sukkot afternoon! Video of the event is here.