NEW YORK — More than a million New Yorkers came out Sunday to show support for Israel by attending the city’s annual Celebrate Israel Parade. Hundreds of thousands of spectators lined the route of the parade along Fifth Avenue, drowning the street in a sea of blue and white.
The parade was one in a series of New York-area events — which actually started Saturday night, with the Empire State Building lit up in blue and white.
At 8 a.m. Sunday morning, thousands of runners set out on a sold-out Celebrate Israel 4-mile (6.4-km) run in Manhattan’s Central Park. According to the Celebrate Israel website, “The four-mile run is a symbolic journey through Israel, from Eilat to Tel Aviv.” Israeli runners were treated to a performance at the Central Park Bandshell by Israeli-born recording artist, performer, educator and music therapist, Dafna.
The Celebrate Israel Parade, started in 1964 and formerly known as the Salute to Israel Parade, featured school groups and other Jewish organizations from the tri-state area, floats, and marching bands.
“I’ve been marching for 31 years with Ramaz. Exciting, community building, great experience for faculty and students to share their love and commitment to Medinat Yisrael. We get a chance to demonstrate our connection to our spiritual and sovereign home,” said Ira Miller, dean of Ramaz Upper School on East 78th Street in Manhattan.
Marchers made their way up Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, from 57th Street to 74th Street. The colorful marchers carried illustrations, collages, paintings, and other art forms that reflected the 2013 parade theme, “Picture Israel: The Art & the Craft.” According to the parade website, the art work was designed “to show the diversity of Israel and its people, the land/sea/cityscapes, accomplishments, etc.”
Security along the parade route was tight, with bomb-sniffing dogs on the ground and police helicopters above.
Among the Israeli participants at the parade were Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan, Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon and MK Dov Lipman.
“I have been to New York many times, but this was my first time representing Israel as a member of Knesset in this important parade,” said American-born Lipman of the Yesh Atid party.
Lipman thanked the US and the city of New York for its friendship towards, and support of, the Jewish state.
The day’s festivities were set to end in a friendly soccer match between the Israeli and Honduran national teams.
Meanwhile, several thousand people attended a Closer to Israel march in central London Sunday afternoon, the UK’s first Israel parade in five years.
The event culminated in a celebratory gathering in Trafalgar Square, which was addressed by Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks and Israel’s Ambassador to the UK Daniel Taub, as well as Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove, who declared he was “proud to be a friend of Israel and proud to be a Zionist.”
Entertainment was provided by Israeli pop star and former Eurovision finalist, Harel Skaat.
The community at the event raised funds for Help for Heroes, a military charity that has been in the news since soldier Lee Rigby was murdered last month by Islamic fundamentalists in London, while wearing a Help for Heroes t-shirt.