Adventure in Palestine

Palestine’s Four-Wheel-Drive Motorsports Team

Just like any other county in the world, Palestine is proud to have a four-wheel-drive (FWD) motorsport team. This team was formally established in 2005, but – unlike in any other country – the initial foundation of the core team was not for motorsports in particular. FWD activities began in 2001 and 2002, the years that witnessed the strict closure of West Bank cities during the second Intifada. Back then, any travelling between villages and cities was very difficult and restricted due to Israeli military checkpoints; people were forced to use alternative roads to get to and from their workplaces or universities. As most of these substitute roads were unpaved and not suitable for use by regular cars, people began to use FWD cars that were able to overcome the difficulties of the roads. Owners of such vehicles offered to help other members of their communities, and their tasks would include taking patients to hospitals during curfews in addition to transporting those who had gotten stuck or were prevented from going home. Drivers were able to provide help during wintertime, especially during snowstorms and floods, and they participated in emergency responses side by side with municipalities and civil defense forces. In other cases, drivers helped people who had lost their way in the desert or who had gotten stuck in Dead Sea mud.

Family trip to the Dead Sea area. Photo by Jamal Aruri.
Family trip to the Dead Sea area. Photo by Jamal Aruri.

A few years later, drivers of FWD vehicles began to invest more in their cars, and it became a trend to have a fully equipped four-wheel-drive car. In 2005, the Palestinian Motor Sports Federation was established, and motorsports activities started on an amateur level. Before long, four-wheel drivers started to become professional, and a formal team was founded in 2010 with fully equipped vehicles and well-trained drivers.

A 4x4 competition in Aqaba, Jordan, November 2017. Photo by Ibrahim Abu Saleh.
A 4×4 competition in Aqaba, Jordan, November 2017. Photo by Ibrahim Abu Saleh.

Formal championships started in 2011, and FWD competitions became an integral part of the federation’s agenda. Only one year later, the Palestinian team participated in regional championships and competed with professional drivers from all over the Middle East, including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, and other countries.

Four-wheel-drive vehicles were introduced out of necessity during the second Intifada due to the closure of regular roads. Later on, they became popular for sports and leisure.

In addition to motorsport activities and competitions, the FWD team started to organize social activities, including trips to undiscovered places in Palestine. Thus, it encouraged Palestinians to enjoy the beauty of their land, and people were able to reach places in the Holy Land that they had never visited before and witness the gorgeous Palestinian mountains, hills, and deserts, as well as the Dead Sea. By doing this, the team began to promote Palestinian nature among locals and tourists, offering full-day trips to new places that no one had been able to reach previously without the help of professional and well-trained FWD drivers.

A 4x4 competition in Hebron, March 2018. Photo by Ibrahim Abu Saleh.
A 4×4 competition in Hebron, March 2018.
Photo by Ibrahim Abu Saleh.

One of the most popular destinations for the FWD team is the Dead Sea track that starts from the Jerusalem–Jericho road (Al-Khan al-Ahmar) and ends at the heights overseeing the Dead Sea. On this track, nature lovers enjoy riding the hills in the Jordan Valley before ending the day by watching the sunset within eyeshot of the Dead Sea. Camping is an option as well, with tents and campfires that create a beautiful ambience beneath a starry sky.

Since 2017, the FWD annual championship has become a formal event on the federation agenda. In 2017, Al-Rihan neighborhood hosted the event in which 50 professional drivers participated. Hebron city in the south hosted the first championship of 2018, and a second event is planned to take place in the northern West Bank before the end of the year.

The championship track is prepared by experts and designed in a way that lets drivers show off their skills and qualifications, as well as the efficiency of the fully equipped vehicles. Water, mud fields, rocks, and tunnels are among the obstacles that each FWD car must negotiate. Such a challenging track provokes an adrenaline rush in both the driver and the audience. People enjoy watching a Jeep drive over rocks, plow through a full pool of water, disappear into a huge tunnel, or cross over pipelines and trucks tires. Frequently, spectators will see Jeeps get stuck in the middle of the track; some cannot overcome the mud stage, others break down in the water, and yet others get stuck among the rocks. Lucky drivers are those who can finish the whole track, and the champion is the one who finishes it in the shortest time.

The federation plans to start participating in Gulf championships in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and it will invite Arab champions to join our local events.

Abdullah Sharawi is a senior executive in project management and currently serves as the managing partner of TCHE TCHE Café. He holds a master’s degree in business administration and has served as business development manager at PADICO HOLDING and in audit and transaction services at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Mr. Sharawi is a board member of various companies and organizations, including publicly listed companies, Injaz Palestine and the Young Entrepreneurs of Palestine. Since 2017, Mr. Sharawi has been the chairman of the Palestinian Motor Sports and Motorcycles Federation (PMSMF).
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