Tens of thousands of marchers and spectators showed their support for Israel on Sunday in New York City’s annual Celebrate Israel Parade.
The parade made its way up Fifth Avenue from 57th Street to 74th Street offering a colorful spectacle comprised of marching bands and Israeli and American flags of varying sizes, along with paintings, floats, collages and T-shirts all centered around the theme of “Picture Israel: The Art and Craft.”
As always, elected officials made their presence felt; among the many who marched were New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Senators Charles Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Governor Andrew Cuomo.
All the New York City mayoral candidates were on hand as well, eliciting both boos and cheers from parade watchers.
Several Israeli officials participated in the parade including Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan, Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon and MK Rabbi Dov Lipman.
Security was tight, as it is with all Israel-related events, but there was an even greater vigilance than usual in the wake of the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings.
Aviva Gold, a 37-year-old homemaker who came to the parade with her two young children, said security concerns would never keep her from showing her support for Israel. She’s attended every parade since 1985 because, she told The Jewish Press, “it’s one of the few opportunities available for the average person to publicly proclaim just by being here that we stand with Israel.”
A notable addition to this year’s parade was the presence of active duty soldiers from the U.S. Army Garrison West Point Color Guard, led by Sergeant David Rodriguez. It was first time in the parade’s history that active U.S. military personnel were among the marchers.
Dovi Meles, an Orthodox Jew who works with U.S. Army public affairs, assisted in connecting parade officials with West Point staff to secure the color guard.
“Even with such short notice West Point authorized the participation of the color guard so that the U.S. military could be represented in the parade,” said Meles.
“This is definitely a first for all of us,” said Sgt. Rodriguez. “We consider it a high honor to be able to participate in such an event.”
The parade was followed by what’s become another New York tradition – a concert under the Central Park bandshell sponsored by the Israel Concert in the Park Committee, associated with Young Israel Chovevei Zion and the National Council of Young Israel. Speakers included MK Danon and former U.S. ambassador to the UN John Bolton; the MC was popular radio personality Nachum Segal.