Some 35,000 marchers will be stepping out Sunday for the annual Celebrate Israel Parade up Fifth Avenue under banners heralding this year’s theme, “Israel Branches Out.” And for the second year in a row, Channel 9 will carry the parade live from noon until 2 p.m.
“Year after year the parade never ceases to be a thrilling experience, bringing the unflagging spirit of Israel to the streets of New York,” said Michael Miller, executive vice president and CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, the parade organizer.
The parade kicks off at 11 a.m. at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street, and ends at 4 p.m. at 74th Street. It is the marquee event of the JCRC here, which runs it in conjunction with the UJA-Federation of New York, the Jewish Communal Fund, the Israel Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Consulate General of Israel in New York.
Before the parade begins, the JCRC in partnership with the New York Road Runners and the Jewish Agency for Israel will for the second year hold a four-mile Celebrate Israel Run through Central Park. Each mile along the course will be marked with posters of Eilat, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Caesarea. A record 70,000 runners have registered for the sold-out event, which will be followed by live Israeli music and food in the Central Park Bandshell.
More than 200 organizations are slated to march in the parade itself, 30 for the first time, in addition to 18 marching bands.
Among the 29 floats in this year’s parade will be one featuring the “American Friends” organizations based here to support seven Israeli universities, including Tel Aviv University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, according to Michael Mittelman, the parade director. It is the first time they will be in the parade.
All of the floats will be decked in Israel’s colors — blue and white. Among the musical groups featured on the floats will be Grammy-nominated electronic band J. Viewz, the Middle Eastern folk group Soulfarm, the reggae-influenced Moshe Hecht Band and Jewish rockers Blue Fringe.
Mittelman said there was a concerted attempt this year to “reach out to organizations” that have not participated in the parade in recent years. As a result, 14 synagogues will also be marching for the first time in recent memory. Among them: Central Synagogue in Manhattan, and the East Midwood Jewish Center and Temple Beth Emeth V’Ohr Progressive Shaari Zedek, both in Brooklyn.
“Coming for the first time as an official spectator will be the City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism,” Mittelman said, explaining that it will be assigned a spot from which to watch the parade and hang its banner. Other first-time spectator groups include Moishe House and Alexander Muss High School in Israel.
An estimated 30,000 people watched the parade on WWOR My9 last year, which for the first time gave the elderly, the homebound, those who work that day and those with competing family commitments a chance to watch the parade remotely, Miller noted.
“There are many legitimate reasons why people can’t make it to Fifth Avenue,” he said. “Even if you can’t celebrate with the hundreds of thousands of people who are going to be there, you can still feel a part of the celebration.”
The My9 telecast will originate at Fifth Avenue and 68th Street. My9 anchor Harry Martin and Israeli TV presenter Becky Griffin will broadcast from the booth there, and Fox 5 reporter Robert Moses will speak with parade participants and spectators along the route.
At the head of the parade will be Israel’s vice prime minister, Silvan Shalom, and Yuli Edelstein, Israel’s minister of public diplomacy and diaspora affairs.
“More than just a parade, this day is a celebration of the special relationship between Israel and America that is rooted in common values and goals,” said Edelstein. “Like America, Israel is a strong, vibrant democracy, a symbol of freedom, tolerance and understanding.”
The ministers will be joined by the parade’s grand marshal, Harvey Kaylie, a Brooklyn native and longtime supporter of Israel who is founder and president of Mini-Circuits, which produces and designs communications and electrical engineering equipment.
The theme of the parade, “Israel Branching Out,” is meant to highlight Israel’s many accomplishments, including in the fields of science, technology, research and agriculture.
“It will show Israel’s positive impact on us here,” Mittelman said, adding that marchers will use such things as fruit and flowers to illustrate the motif.
As in recent years when the parade has become a lightening rod for those who question the politics of some of the groups allowed to march, this year’s parade is not without controversy. A group called JCCWatch charged that because at least two of the participating organizations support a boycott of products made in Jewish settlements outside the Green Line, they “represent the enemies of Israel.”