When is a parade for Israel not quite a parade? When the Jewish state is in the middle of its worst crisis in years.
For the first time in its 38-year history, the Salute to Israel Parade May 5 will lack marching bands or balloons, thus avoiding a party atmosphere. Instead, thousands of American and Israeli flags will convey the ties of solidarity between Israel and the United States.
"We’re changing the flavor …to reflect whatís going on in Israel," said Judy Kaufthal, the parade’s president. "The event will be called Israel Solidarity Day-Salute to Israel Parade. And instead of marching bands, there will be American and Israeli patriotic songs" on many floats.
Among signs to be distributed to the crowd will be those reading: "Our Hope Will Not be Lost" and "Pray for Peace."
Kaufthal said the phones of parade organizers have been "ringing off the hook." Why? "You can’t believe how many people want to participate," she said. "We have 100,000 marchers signed up and at least as many spectators."
Ruth Kastner, executive director of the parade, said the previous record number of marchers was 65,000. Because of all the groups wanting to march, the last group will step off at 4 p.m. at 57th St. and Fifth Ave.: five hours after the parade begins up Fifth Ave. to 79th St.. Among the new marching groups: day schools from Boca Raton, Fla., and Brookline, Mass.
But this year, the clowns who used to entertain spectators will be absent. Their replacements? Uncle Sam and the Statue of Liberty.