Fashionable Fifth Avenue in New York City was transformed into a sea of blue and white on Sunday, June 5th, as tens of thousands participated in the annual “Celebrate Israel” parade, while hundreds of thousands of onlookers cheered on the litany of synagogues, schools and organizations that participated in the jubilant march. Reports indicate that the attendance was the largest in its 47-year history.
Former Soviet dissident and Israeli Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora, Yuli Edelstein served as the grand marshall and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg along with Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, led the parade down its route to 74th Street.
A virtual repertoire of dignitaries made appearances including Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D) of New York’s 8th congressional district, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, as well as leaders of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), and the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) representing various Jewish communities.
The flag of Israel was a ubiquitous site as well as “Old Glory” which were held aloft by participants in each group. Such schools as Yeshiva of Flatbush, Magen David Yeshiva, Shulamith School for Girls, Yeshiva Derech HaTorah, the Rambam Yeshiva, the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR), the North Shore Hebrew Academy, the Jewish Foundation School, the Hebrew Academy of Nassau County, the Frisch School, the Ramaz School, the Joseph Kushner Hebew Academy, the Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva of Edison, New Jersey, the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey, the Westchester Hebrew High School, the Solomon Schechter Schools of Queens, Manhattan, Nassau County, Bergen County, Monmouth County, Raritan Valley and Westchester were well represented with their entire student bodies as were many others.
A plethora of floats and marching bands were also on hand with sound systems playing Hebrew music and traditional Israeli songs relating to the cultural and religious legacy of the Jewish state. Float sponsors included El Al Airlines, Bank HaPoalim/Bank Leumi, American Friends of Magen David Adom, the 92nd Street Y, the Jewish National Fund, RAJE – Russian American Jewish Experience, the American-Israel Friendship League, the Jewish Community Relations Council, and the UJA Federation of New York.
The predominant theme of each participating group was the centrality of Israel to the collective Jewish identity as well as calls to maintain the holy city of Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal, united and undivided capital. The subtle undercurrent of geo-political realities also permeated the parade route as many remained shocked and outraged over the dramatic shift in US foreign policy as it pertains to Israel.
“I’m a black Christian woman who loves Israel and what she represents to the free world. I roundly condemn, in the strongest of terms, President Obama’s arrogant and hostile posture towards the only stable democratic ally we have in the Middle East. How dare he even entertain the ludicrous notion of Israel retreating to the clearly indefensible 1967 borders? It is clear as day that this president would love nothing more than to see Israel destroyed by her enemies”, declared Coretta James of the Christians United For Israel organization, as she stood on the sidelines watching the parade.