Israel Parade, Sans Salute
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Israel Parade, Sans Salute

After 47 years, the world’s largest show of public support for Israel is getting a new image.

Salute to Israel is out. Celebrate is in. (Cue the music from Kool and the Gang.)

Widely known by its misnomer, the Israel Day Parade, the march falls this year on Sunday, June 5. Some 30,000 participants will make their way up the familiar Fifth Avenue route, under a new logo from graphic designer Milton Glaser, who created the classic “I ❤ NY” emblem. The theme will be honoring the impact Israel has made in the lives of New Yorkers (although participants come from around the tri-state area and other parts of the country.)

Another change: The parade will be preceded by a four-mile run in Central Park in conjunction with the New York Road Runner Club.

“The change is a reflection of what actually happens on parade day,” said Michael Miller of the Jewish Community Relations Council, which took over stewardship of the march when the American Zionist Youth Foundation shut down in 1995. “We are celebrating Israel and our relationship with Israel. After the success of last year’s parade [we want to] take the parade to a different level, and part of that is to change the name.”

Several hundred thousand people usually line the parade route along Fifth Avenue from 59th to 74th Street.

The rebranding comes at a time when a concerted international movement is working to tarnish Israel’s image through boycotts, divestments and sanctions, and proactive Zionists are working to show positive aspects of the Jewish state rather than simply do damage control.

Miller admits that the military connotation of “salute” was part of the reason for the change. “Some people mentioned that to us but that wasn’t a decisive factor,” he said. “The objective is to bring more people to celebrate our events.” He said the decision was made in close consultation with the Israeli Consulate here, which is the primary headquarters for the country’s hasbara, or image-polishing efforts in the U.S., and with UJA-Federation of New York, the largest single donor to the parade organization, the Israel Tribute Committee.

The Mets’ will host Celebrate Israel Night June 1 at Citi Field. The Celebrate Israel Project will include a series of other arts, sports and community events. Miller said this year’s grand marshal and other details about the parade will be announced shortly.

Glaser’s new logo is a white, five-pointed star, like those on the American flag, with a red background surrounded by a royal blue six-pointed Star of David and, at a 30-degree angle, a second Star of David in light blue creating the appearance of a 12-pointed star radiating light.

“I wanted to depict the strong bond American Jews feel towards Israel and its people,” Glaser said in a JCRC statement. “The Celebrate Israel Parade makes the statement that we stand with Israel through thick and thin, and that the fates of our nations are linked. The shapes and colors in the logo represent the relationship of light to life.”

Rabbi Yotav Eliach, principal of Rambam Mesivta High School in Lawrence, who can’t recall missing a parade since its inception, said the name change seemed to be a way to encourage more participation.

“It sounds more inclusive,” he said. “Like anybody, no matter where your political views are, should come and celebrate.” But he said “the bottom line is those people who believe in the State of Israel will come, whether it is called salute or celebrate Israel. And those who do not come, I don’t think they will come because of a new name.”

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