Over 30,000 Take Part in Salute to Israel Parade

By: Fern Sidman

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.

Approximately 50 pro-Palestinian apologists representing an alliance of left-wing politcal factions and Islamist movements along with other anti-Zionist agitators of the Chareidi Neturei Karta organization gathered on 5th Avenue between East 58th Street and 59th Streets to express their vitriol towards Israel. Rolling out banners and posters carrying the same hackneyed and mendacious slogans that have been used in previous years, the protestors accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing” of the Palestinian population and called for the establishment of a state called Palestine with boundaries running from the Jordan River to the Mediterrean sea, thus nullifying Israel’s existence.

Directly across the street stood pro-Israel counter demonstrators including Barbara Kaufman of the Human Rights Coalition Against Radical Islam (HRCARI) who said, “If there are peaceful Islamists, why are they not here today at this parade? Why are they not actively involved in condemning radical elements of Islam who are responsible for terrorist attacks around the world? Today, we have people of all faiths and nationalities represented here who support the vibrant democracy of Israel. We have Hindus, Christians and Buddhists here who speak out vociferously against the purveyors of lies and grotesque falsehoods.” She added with a sardonic tone, “Perhaps these purportedly peaceful Islamists are busy building bombs and planning future terrorist attacks.”

Other parade goers and spectators carried signs calling for the release of Israeli Staff Sargeant Gilad Shalit, who was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists five years ago at the Kerem Shalom crossing near Gaza. Despite the fact that several human rights organizations have stated that the terms and conditions of Shalit’s detention are contrary to international humanitarian law, to date, the only contact between Sgt. Shalit and the outside world since his abduction has been three letters, an audio tape, and a DVD that Israel received in return for releasing 20 female Palestinian prisoners.

In addition to Shalit, calls for the immediate release of Jonathan Pollard also took center stage. A former civilian American Naval intelligence analyst, Pollard received a life sentence in 1987 on charges of spying for Israel. Pollard was never indicted for harming the United States, nor was he indicted for compromising codes, agents or war plans and he was never charged with treason. Israeli activist groups, as well as high-profile Israeli politicians including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have lobbied for his release, but he has continued to languish in federal prison for close to 25 years and is in ill health.

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