The Celebrate Israel Parade that saw more than 35,000 marchers sing, dance and strut their way up Fifth Avenue amid colorful floats, Israeli flags and lively music took place last Sunday with such precision that it actually ended 30 minutes early.
Save for a 15-minute light rain towards the end of the parade —during which some spectators tossed umbrellas to marchers — New York City’s 48th tribute to the Jewish state took place under generally sunny skies and pleasant temperatures.
“It’s great every year and the weather is with us, which shows that God is with us,” said State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) as he marched alongside Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Queens).
“It’s particularly important these days to stand with Israel because of the Iranian nuclear threat,” Weprin said. “It’s important that we unite behind the only democratic country in the Middle East — the State of Israel.”
Watching them pass was Kami Livi, 46, an accountant from Great Neck, L.I., who came to the United States 31 years ago from Iran. He said he was there to cheer marchers from the Mashedi Community of Great Neck and that he enjoyed the additional music in the parade this year.
A short distance away, the parade’s street band, Soul Farm, played as each marching group approached.
“I’m here to stand with Israel,” Livi said, adding that he is hopeful the current tensions with Iran will end with a diplomatic solution.
“I think the whole world has to impose sanctions against Iran and that maybe that would” persuade it to abandon plans to develop nuclear weapons, he said. “My uncle lives there with about 25,000 other Jews, and they don’t want to leave.”
Yuli Edelstein, Israel’s minister of public diplomacy and diaspora affairs, said he marched twice up Fifth Avenue Sunday — once at the front of the procession with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and later with officials of the Israeli Consulate here.
“The first time there were not that many people watching, but when I marched 90 minutes later I think there were more spectators, especially after 70th Street,” he said.
Other observers said there was a definite thinning of the crowds this year. But that did not dampen the spirits of the marchers, many of whom sang along with the music. And some even danced.
“This is the first year we have a cheerleading group,” Fouad Pouyafar, president of the board of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Long Island, said of the 27 girls in cheerleading costumes at the head of the school delegation.
As Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens) marched along the parade route she said it was her perception that this year’s parade “has more energy and people marching.”
“The relationship between America and Israel has never been stronger and more hopeful,” she said.
Asher Greenspun, 68, of Manhattan, said it was his first time at the parade in many years because until recently he had lived in New Jersey “and it was tougher to get here. … This parade is terrific. It makes you feel at home.”
As John Ruskay, CEO and executive vice president of UJA-Federation of New York, the parade’s major sponsor, watched the parade from the sidelines he observed that it is the “largest annual public display of support for the State of Israel anywhere in the world.”
“One day a year we put aside our differences and express our solidarity and support for the people of Israel,” he said. “To see young and old, progressive, Conservative, Reform and Orthodox together makes it a wonderful day for New York Jewry and the people of the State of Israel.”
Edelstein, the Israeli minister, said he found it “very emotional to see so much blue and white all around Manhattan. To see so many families and people pouring in to march for hours and hours was really wonderful. And it’s very important because, unfortunately, many Israelis get easily depressed with talk of how the whole world is against us. But to see thousands of New Yorkers and their top leaders all here … is very important for Israelis to see.”