The annual Celebrate Israel Parade, a New York institution since 1964, drew tens of thousands of marchers and approximately 100,000 spectators to Manhattan on Sunday.
Day schools, community centers, synagogues, and an array of Jewish organizations were well represented as the parade marched up Fifth Avenue in a loud and colorful demonstration of support for Israel.
The parade was awash in a sea of Israeli flags and pro-Israel banners. Many of the floats, and the t-shirts worn by participants, reflected this year’s theme of “Imagine Israel,” with parade organizers having challenged marchers “to use your imagination and creativity to highlight some of the things that Israel imagined and continues to imagine – some that have come to fruition and some still to be achieved.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo were among dozens of city and state elected officials showing their support for Israel. At one point de Blasio danced with several Chabad chassidim who were singing “Heveinu Shalom Aleichem.”
“We have an extraordinary tie between the city of New York and the state of Israel,” the mayor told reporters. “Protecting the future of Israel is something so many New Yorkers care deeply about.”
Gov. Cuomo, in remarks to reporters before the parade, said the state has a “cultural simpatico with our Jewish brothers and sisters” and described the U.S.-Israel relationship as a “strategic alliance” that “in many ways is more important today than ever before.”
The Israeli delegation at the parade included Israeli Consul General in New York Ido Aharoni, Science Minister Danny Danon, Minister Without Portfolio Ofir Akunis and Knesset Members Yoav Ben-Tzur, Avraham Nagosa, Keenia Svetlov, and Revital Swid.
Akunis said “the past and future” of the U.S. and Israel “are intertwined,” adding that “Israel owes a great debt to the U.S. and its citizens who stood and stand with us even when we disagree.”
The general feeling among spectators and marchers seemed to reflect the sentiment expressed by MK Swid (Zionist Union), who said she came to march in the parade as her way of fighting against the ongoing delegitimazion of Israel.
Leah Goldstein, a mother of four who watched the parade with three of her children, told The Jewish Press it was “important that all the individuals and organizations who spend their time trashing Israel see this huge show of support for Israel from people of so many different backgrounds. If we stay united, the Israel-bashers will never win.”