In advance of Yom Yerushalayim (on May 29; the 28th of Iyar), Manhattan seemed to feel a little bit like Jerusalem on Sunday with three major pro-Israel events unfolding from morning to night.
It started with the Israel Day Parade – the first parade since the pandemic started – and the theme was “Kulanu B’Yached” (“Together Again”). That sentiment was visible on floats and T-shirts worn by participants. After leaving the parade, the Israeli defense minister spoke to hundreds at a synagogue on the Upper East Side. From there, many in the audience headed to the Jerusalem Conference in mid-town.
Marching Up Fifth Avenue
Despite temperatures well into the 90s, tens of thousands of people of all ages walked the 1.5-mile parade route to show their support for Israel. They waved flags, danced, sang, shook blue-and-white pom-poms and even blew bubbles at the crowds. Signs were held by groups affiliated with schools, synagogues and other groups, and representation came from local and national leaders, including New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams. Israel Defense Minister Benny Gantz and other Israeli officials also marched.
“There was so much joy at the parade today,” US Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said. “There is so much to celebrate. Israel remains an innovation capital of the world.”
“It’s heartwarming to see such a huge crowd,” said Robin Feit of Long Island, N.Y., whose son, Marc, was marching with his school. “It’s a real morale boost and pride to know there’s so much support for Israel. We hear so much in the media about anti-Semitism, but this turnout shows they are not going to stop us.”
Among those who experienced the Israel Day Parade for the first time was Dan Elbaum, head of the North America division for the Jewish Agency of Israel.
“It was amazing,” he said, “to see so many people turn out to cheer, despite the weather. It was really inspirational.”
The parade sends a message that despite two years of coronavirus lockdowns and occasional political disagreements, he said, “a significant amount of American Jews – not just Jews from New York but from around the country – come to wave the Israeli flag and show their solidarity, and to be there in a physical sense for the State of Israel.”
“Seeing so many friends of the Jewish community reminded me of the amazing strength the State of Israel has in New York City,” said Asaf Zamir, Israel’s Consul General in New York.
“It’s so crucial that we show that support for Israel is across the board,” said Michael Miller, CEO emeritus of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY), the organizer of the parade. “For those who are further to the right they have their point of view, for those who are further to the left they have their point of view, and our organization is right down the middle, down the center, and we have our point of view.”
Gantz Goes to Upper East Side
Defense Minister Gantz went from the parade to Park East Synagogue on the Upper East Side where he concluded his four day U.S. visit by paying tribute to American families who had relatives killed serving in the IDF. Gantz singled out attendee Noam Gerstein.
“He is the brother of my brother-in-arms, esteemed Golani officer Erez Gerstein,” he said, referring to the brigadier-general who commanded the IDF’s Lebanon Liaison Unit and who was killed in 1999 in southern Lebanon.
“Erez taught us all about the battlefield, about courage and life itself,” Gantz said. “When he was tragically killed by an explosive planted by Hezbollah, I assumed his role, stepping into the biggest shoes I ever had to fill.”
“On the day of his funeral, I was privileged to be among the generals who carried his coffin,” he said.
“While driving through the roads and fields of Emek Israel, heading towards the kibbutz cemetery, I remember thinking to myself: We must ensure that we are worthy of his sacrifice,” Gantz said. “His image has indeed accompanied me ever since.”
The Iran threat should be taken seriously, he warned the audience of 500, especially since it is only a “few weeks” away from having enough fissile material for a nuclear warhead.
“This is not an issue that should just bother us as Israelis. It should bother the world at large.”
Jerusalem Conference In NYC
After Gantz departed Park East, the other Israeli representatives headed to the InterContinental Times Square Hotel in Manhattan for the 2022 Arutz Sheva-Israel National News Jerusalem Conference (Arutz Sheva is a content partner of The Jewish Press and some of its conference coverage is included in this article). This was the first time the well-known conference was held in New York, following 20 years of taking place in Jerusalem.
“I give great credit to Arutz Sheva for bringing a piece of Jerusalem into New York and bringing people to speak about Israel and to express their love for Israel,” says JCRC’s Miller. “People will have an opportunity to hear from some of the decision makers from the State of Israel as well as individuals who have made their mark to share their story with us in America. Having the Jerusalem Conference in New York is a very special feeling.”
The first-ever Jerusalem Prize for the development of Judea and Samaria was awarded during the conference, going to the Falic family for their efforts to support Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria, including the development of tourism in the area and promotion of Israeli businesses.
The conference is slated to focus on a number of topics including efforts to secure the return of the remains of two IDF soldiers being held by Hamas; Jerusalem as a model for innovation; education challenges in the Startup Nation; obstacles to efforts aimed at bringing Diaspora Jews to Israel; the difficulties in developing Israel’s periphery; and the phenomenon of Israelis who live abroad returning to Israel.
Consul General Zamir spoke about the increase of anti-Semitism. “When you look at anti-Semitism in the US and where it starts, college is the place of this new brand of anti-Semitism,” he said. “The outcome is either frightened Jewish kids running around the campus & not saying the things they want, or they see Israel as a burden, socially and politically.”
Former White House Envoy to the White House Jason Greenblatt spoke to the audience about the Biden Administration’s interest in cutting a new deal with Iran regarding nuclear weapons development. “I am still fearful,” he said. “The Iran deal is a threat, not just to Israel and its surrounding countries, it is a threat to America. What we should understand from what is happening in Ukraine. Russia is threatening the U.S., its allies and Ukraine with nuclear weapons, imagine if Iran had nuclear weapons.”
“It is incumbent on anybody who supports Israel to shout from the rooftops, ‘Don’t sign this Iran Deal.’”
When it comes to the current status of the Abraham Accords, Greenblatt put forth a plan to strengthen relations in the region. He said, “You cannot fault the UAE for criticizing Israel from time to time. I think it is incumbent on anybody who supports the Abraham Accords and who supports Israel, to go to the countries and show them what Israel is about, and what Judaism is about.”
“He’s messed up the relationship with Saudi Arabia in a huge way. He’s disrespectful to the kingdom, he is disrespectful to the Crown Prince. He said he would make Saudi Arabia the pariah that it is. And now we are begging for their oil.”
Regarding Biden’s upcoming trip to the Middle East, Greenblatt said, “I am not in favor of him visiting the Palestinian hospital unless he is going to visit it under the auspices of the Israeli government. The notion that he would go into parts of Jerusalem, without the Israeli Government, and pretend it’s Palestinian is a huge mistake.”
Israeli Minister Goes to City Hall
The Israeli outreach to New York even continued on Monday morning when Immigration and Absorption Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata met with New York City Mayor Eric Adams at City Hall.
They talked about strengthening the connection between Israel and New York in the backdrop of a surge of support for Israel as part of the previous day’s Israel Parade. The two also discussed the rise in anti-Semitism in the city, particularly in areas with significant Jewish populations.
Tamano-Shata – an Ethiopian-born immigrant to Israel and the first Ethiopian woman to enter the Knesset back in 2013 – said, “Eric Adams is a pioneer from the black community and a true friend of Israel.… I thanked Adams for standing by New York alongside Israel during these challenging times, as we saw in the great march of support for Israel.”
(Combined from reports by Arutz Sheva and Jewish News Service)