Tens of thousands attend NYC Israel solidarity parade
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Tens of thousands attend NYC Israel solidarity parade

51st annual Celebrate Israel event attracts over 30,000; anti-Israel protesters turned away by police

People take part in the Celebrate Israel Parade along Fifth Avenue May 31, 2015 in New York City.  (Eric Thayer/Getty Images/AFP)
People take part in the Celebrate Israel Parade along Fifth Avenue May 31, 2015 in New York City. (Eric Thayer/Getty Images/AFP)

NEW YORK — Tens of thousands of people gathered in the streets of New York on Sunday to mark the 51st annual Celebrate Israel Parade.

American and Israeli politicians joined 30,000 other people who marched up Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue in a show of solidarity with Israel for the all-day event marking Israel’s 67th birthday.

A number of Knesset members, including Minister without portfolio Ofir Akunis, Minister of Science, Technology and Space Danny Danon (Likud), Avraham Naguise (Likud), Yoav Ben Tzur (Shas) and Revital Swid and Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) represented the Israeli parliament at the parade.

New York Mayor Bill De Blasio also attended the event.

Some 35 organizations including the Israeli government, Nefesh B’Nefesh and the UJA Federation of New York, sponsored this year’s parade entitled “Israel Imagines Peace.”

Close to 100 soon-to-be immigrants to Israel from the Tri-State area participated in the march, according to Nefesh B’Nefesh.

Separately, the Israel-American Council (IAC) partnered with the Consulate General of Israel in New York and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, JCRC-NY to host a festival celebrating Israeli food and culture.

“The day is a marathon of celebration. We want people to march at the festival and dance at the parade,” said Yehudit Feinstein-Mentesh, IAC’s Regional Director for New York. “As Israelis living in New York, we know very well just how rich and layered Israeli culture truly is. For one magical afternoon, we’re thrilled to bring all that richness to New York, and paint the Big Apple blue-and-white for a day.”

For the afternoon, Pier 94 was transformed to include a 17-foot long mock up of the Western Wall, an Israeli “shuk” (market) where Israeli-American artists displayed and sold hand-made crafts, and a pavilion featuring Israeli-American tech companies and music stars. Children played in the sand on a stylized Tel Aviv beach complete with beach balls, pails and shovels.

Part of Pier 94 was turned into a Tel Aviv Beach for the afternoon to mark the 51st annual Celebrate Israel Parade, May 31, 2015. (Cathryn J. Prince)
Part of Pier 94 was turned into a Tel Aviv Beach for the afternoon to mark the 51st annual Celebrate Israel Parade, May 31, 2015. (Cathryn J. Prince)

In the Marketplace Café, 30 kosher trucks and restaurants from the region served up traditional favorites and new twists on old classics, such Schnitzel Plus’ Mexican style shawarma.

“I’m very excited about this, it’s a great way to keep the community alive,” said Ziv Derner, owner of the Glatt-kosher Schnitzel Plus. “People know a little more about Israeli food now, especially hummus. But there are not enough good kosher places. The more people know about this the better.”

Others tucked into chewy pita stuffed with falafel and topped with hummus at Soom Soom, a vegetarian restaurant with several locations in Manhattan.

Thirty kosher food trucks and restaurants served up everything from falafel and shawarma to salads and cheese at the Celebrate Israel Parade in New Yorl, May 31, 2015. (Cathryn J. Prince)
Thirty kosher food trucks and restaurants served up everything from falafel and shawarma to salads and cheese at the Celebrate Israel Parade in New Yorl, May 31, 2015. (Cathryn J. Prince)

Israeli TV star and current sports columnist for the Israeli newspaper Calcalist, Becky Griffin hosted the afternoon’s events. The daughter of legendary Israeli and Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball star Bob Griffin, she worked as a reporter for Israel’s Sports Channel before moving to London to work as a VJ at MTV Europe.

“I am thrilled to be returning once again as the Celebrate Israel Parade correspondent, and am especially excited this year to serve as the first-ever Celebrate Israel Festival Master of Ceremonies,” said Griffin. “I’m a proud Israeli-American, and I can’t wait for the rest of New York to experience the vibrant and warm Israeli culture that I’ve always known and loved.”

Griffin introduced festival-goers to Rita, the iconic Israeli performer who headlined the festival as well as popular children’s entertainer Rinat Gabay. Grammy-Award winning violinist Miri Ben-Ari, Golem, SoulFarm, The Shul Band, The Israel Dance Institute, The Areyvut Mitzvah Clowns and a dozen other performers were scheduled to perform throughout the day, according to the event website.

Горжусь представлять свою страну на ежегодном нью-йоркском параде в честь Израиля вместе с депутатами Свейд, Негосе и Бен-Цуром. Очень трогательно и красиво.

Posted by Ксения Светлова on svētdiena, 2015. gada 31. maijs

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told participants at the parade that they are “sending a powerful message of support for the essential justice of Israel’s cause.”

“In this turbulent region of the Middle East, where countries are imploding, militant Islam runs rampant, terrorists butcher the innocent and human rights are routinely trampled upon, Israel stands out as a beacon of freedom and human rights, as a model of tolerance and diversity and as the one country in which the equal rights of all citizens are fiercely protected under the law,” Netanyahu wrote in his message to parade participants.

Some anti-Israel protesters attempted to infiltrate the sectioned off march area, but were turned away by police.

JTA and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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