For all of the impassioned, if not overheated, debates about Israel, it is worthwhile for us, for whom Zionism means so much, to sometimes step back and connect again to the idea that the return to Zion — in the words of the Psalmist — is not just about the latest headlines but about laughter and song, dreams and joy.
Israel to its truest lovers is not just a place of politics and angst, but a place in the soul that makes us happy and confident, deserving of parades, trombones, floats and balloons. There is the serendipity of seeing old friends on the sidewalk, nothing less than the delight of simply being Jewish on a beautiful day in May.
This Sunday, of course, is the Salute To Israel Parade on Fifth Avenue, a project of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. Like the best of parents who are able to put aside the latest report card and just see and love our children for the blessing they are, the parade is our time for simply seeing and loving, to bless and to feel blessed.
It was a different world in 1964, when the parade’s first edition took off down Riverside Drive. Through wars, miraculous and less so; through prime ministers, left and right; through years when Israel was “the popular kid” and through years when we felt a little black-and-blue; this grass-roots parade has persevered to become the largest public celebration of Israel in the world.
It is also a celebration of our inherent unity, as the parade is nonpartisan and apolitical beyond the common desire to support the State of Israel.
Another tradition of the parade day — although organized independently of the parade and more overtly political, particularly in support of Jewish rights to Jerusalem — is the 17th annual Israel Day Concert in Central Park (72nd Street at the Summer Stage), featuring an afternoon’s worth of the top Israeli and local musicians, from rock to reggae.
The Salute to Israel Parade will march from 57th Street to 74th Street, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine. In the end, that’s the only way to love Israel, rain or shine. See you there.
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