How appropriate that the theme of this year’s Celebrate Israel Parade, being held this Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fifth Avenue, is “Israel Imagines.”
Imagine an Israel that the great majority of American Jews could support actively and with enthusiasm, taking pride in the remarkable accomplishments of a Jewish democracy thriving in a region that has become increasingly dangerous and bloodied.
Imagine that New York Jewry could put aside its nasty ideological squabbles for a day and recognize the invaluable role Israel plays as a vibrant connection to our history, heritage, culture and Jewish identity.
Imagine the satisfaction our community can have in generating positive attention for the Jewish state through the biggest pro-Israel gathering in the world, a highlight of our communal calendar. And imagine that large numbers of Israelis living in New York turning out on Sunday to show their love for the Jewish homeland.
All that is possible. But it’s up to you to make it happen by simply being present — between 57th and 74th streets — on Sunday, rain or shine. Show your support at a time when U.S.-Israel relations are deeply strained and Israel is increasingly placed on the defensive, here and around the world. Anti-Semitism has reached alarming proportions in Europe, fueled in part by anti-Israel sentiment; the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement has become more than a nuisance on a number of college campuses, targeting Israel alone as an illegitimate state; and surveys indicate that many young American Jews are feeling more distant from Israel.
The saving grace amidst this depressing news is that the more exposure people have to Israel by visiting firsthand, the stronger their ties and the deeper their understanding and appreciation of Israel in all its complexity.
This year, more than ever, one can celebrate Israel here in multiple ways. In addition to the parade, coordinated through the tireless efforts of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), and the annual Israel Day Concert in Central Park (2:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.) with its distinctive nationalist theme, there is the Israeli American Council (IAC) Celebrate Israel Festival at Pier 94 on the West Side (2 p.m. to 7 p.m.).
The Festival will feature music, food, sports and other forms of entertainment. (See story on page 1.)
It is part of a major effort, here and around the country, to strengthen the Israeli community in the U.S. and, in turn, to build and sustain bridges between Israeli and American Jews. Only in recent years has the large Israeli community in the U.S. been perceived in Jerusalem as a strategic ally rather than viewed negatively as yordim, literally those who “went down” from the Jewish state. The IAC’s success in a short time in raising substantial funds and capturing the attention and attendance of many Israeli Americans underscores the need for such an organization and the potential for future growth and cooperation.
So choose your venue, or venues, from Central Park to Fifth Avenue to the Hudson River, and be counted.
We look forward to seeing the entire community on Sunday.