Orthodox make big showing at Salute to Israel Parade
Over 35,000 people march along Manhattan's prestigious Fifth Avenue most of them from Orthodox Day Schools in the New York and New Jersey areas.
With the exception of a burst of rain towards its end, the annual Salute to Israel Parade – now known as Celebrate Israel Parade – went off without a hitch in New York on Sunday. Over 35,000 people marched in the parade along the prestigious Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, most of them from Orthodox Day Schools in the New York and New Jersey areas.
Estimates of the crowds that came out to watch the parade ranged from the tens to the hundreds of thousands, though most observers agreed that it was about the same size as last year’s audience. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor Andrew Cuomo led the parade, accompanied by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Sylvan Shalom and Absorption Minister Yuli Edelstein.
The theme of the parade was “Branching Out”, aimed at celebrating Israel’s technological prowess and assistance to countries in need. The marchers waved thousands of Israeli and American flags, with most groups sporting their own tailor-made uniforms. General New York marching bands also participated in the parade, displaying the kind of precision and discipline usually found lacking in the Jewish groups.
A delegation comprised of various human rights groups, including Peace Now and B’Tselem, marching under the banner of the New Israel Fund, failed to elicit widespread protests, despite a concerted Internet campaign waged by extreme right-wing activists. Organizers wisely placed the delegation at the beginning of the march, before the crowds swelled, and there were only sporadic boos – known in New York as “Bronx cheers” – directed at the left-wing marchers.
Nonetheless, most of the participants in the parade, as well as most of the crowds lining the sidewalks on Fifth Avenue, were clearly Orthodox, with Orthodox day schools comprising about 85% of the marchers. A separate “Israel Day Concert” was held in Central Park, in which Likud MK Danny Danon was the featured speaker. The Summerstage arena in which the concert was held was filled by two or three thousand Orthodox Jews who came to express support for the release of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard and against the planned removal of the Ulpana neighborhood in the West Bank settlement of Beit El.
The head of the Jewish Community Relations Council, Michael Miller, who organized the parade told Haaretz “The parade once again brought out the spirit of support that we in New York have for Israel, whether we are on the right or on the left, religious or not, Jewish or not. 35,000 marchers prove that despite the difference that people may have about this or that matter on Israel’s agenda, we all support the core struggle of Israel and identify with it.”