Fashionable 5th Avenue in New York City morphed into a virtual sea of blue and white last Sunday afternoon as thousands marched down the famed thoroughfare in a passionate display of support for the State of Israel in honor of her 62nd birthday. The flag of Israel was a ubiquitous sight, as marchers representing synagogues, schools, yeshivos and Jewish organizations from around the tri-state area held aloft this indefatigable symbol of Jewish statehood with pride while hoisting decorative banners and signs calling for a united Jerusalem. Spectators from all over the country lined the parade route and joyfully cheered on the marchers as they raised their collective voices in tribute to the glorious legacy of Israel.
For over 20 blocks, Hebrew songs blared through loudspeakers on the abundance of floats representing organizations and businesses supporting Israel as marching bands, dance troupes and choral societies provided their own unique backdrop to the day's festivities. Throngs of ebullient students representing such local area schools as Yeshiva of Flatbush, Magen David, Shulamith High School for Girls, Yeshiva of Manhattan Beach and the East Midwood Hebrew Day School proudly chanted, "Am Yisroel Chai" (the nation of Israel lives) as they paid homage to the rich heritage, ancestry, and history of the Jewish homeland.
Others schools and groups participating in the 2010 Salute to Israel parade included the Yeshiva of Central Queens, Yeshiva University High School for Boys and Girls, the JCH of Bensonhurst, HAFTR - Hebrew Academy of Far Rockaway and the Five Towns, the Jewish Foundation School, the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach, the Moshe Aaron Yeshiva High School, the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy, the Kings Bay YM-YWHA, the Ma'ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls, the North Shore Hebrew Academy High School, the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey, the Sephardic Heritage Alliance, the Solomon Schecter Day Schools of Bergen, Essex and Union counties in New Jersey, United Synagogue Youth, the Ramaz School, the Westchester Jewish Conference, Temple Israel of Great Neck, Tzofim Tzabar - Friends of Israel Scouts, the Republican Jewish Coalition, RAJE - Russian American Jewish Experience, the Jewish War Veterans, among many others.
Float sponsors included the American Friends of Magen David Adom, the America-Israel Friendship League, Bank Leumi, Bank Hapoalim, El Al Airlines, the B'nai Zion Foundation and the 92nd Street YM-YWHA.
The parade was not without a polemical element as opponents of the Jewish state gathered along the parade route between 58th and 59th Streets to voice their animus towards Israel. Members of the vociferously anti-Israel Chassidic sect known as Neturei Karta carried Palestinian flags and shouted epithets against the Zionist movement while holding signs saying, "Authentic rabbis oppose the creation of Israel". They were joined by members of the ANSWER Coalition, a left wing pro-Palestinian conglomerate that lambastes Israel as a "racist, apartheid state".
Directly across the street stood members of the Human Rights Coalition Against Radical Islam (HRCARI), a nascent organization representing Jews, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and ex-Muslims whose objective is to graphically depict the heinous atrocities committed by radical Islamists against all infidels. Andrew Upton, a founding member of HRCARI said, "We are here today to remind all Americans that Israel is on the front lines in the struggle against radical Islam. If we strengthen Israel, we thereby strengthen all of humanity as radical Islam represents the greatest threat to our freedoms since Nazism prior to World War II."
Christian supporters of Israel such as Linda Rivera of Manhattan also joined the HRCARI counter-protest. Said Ms. Rivera," The Jewish people are finally back in the land that G-d gave them as an everlasting possession and anybody who attempts to steal this land from the Jews is declaring war on G-d. The Obama administration has expressed nothing but extreme hostility towards our stalwart ally Israel while coddling our terrorist enemies such as Iran and that is nothing short of reprehensible."
"Haven't we learned from history that we can't appease terrorists?", intoned Coretta James, an African American woman and fervent supporter of Israel. "I am here today to say as a black woman, that our president if a blatant anti-Semite who should be ashamed of himself for his wayward policies concerning Israel. The Jewish nation cannot be coerced into making a so called 'peace' with an enemy who has sworn her destruction such as the Palestinian leadership", she added.
Rabbi Chaim Shimon of the Millinery Synagogue in Manhattan said, "We are here today to show our solidarity with the one and only Jewish nation. As a Torah observant Jew, my message to President Obama concerning his relations to Jews and Israel comes directly from the Bible which states, 'Those who bless you will be blessed and those who curse you will be cursed'. Mr. President - keep your hands off our holy city of Jerusalem because the G-d of Israel is watching over you."
As the parade reached its conclusion, both marchers and spectators headed towards the "Summerstage" in Central Park for the 17th annual Concert in the Park for Israel. Headlining at this year's musical tribute to Israel were renowned singers Eitan Katz, Gershon Veroba, Jerry Markovitz (who sang The Star Spangled Banner) , Izzy Kieffer, Michael Ian Elias, Elad Snir, accompanied by Israeli pianist extraordinaire Shlomi Aharoni and such groups as Pey Dalid and the Maccabeats (a Yeshiva University a cappella group), among others. Hatikvah was sung by Dr. Paul Brody, Concert Chairperson.
The concert, emceed by radio personality Nachum Segal, (JM in the AM), was dedicated to Jerusalem never being divided, not giving up any land anywhere in Eretz Yisroel, and standing up to the mullahs of Iran. Mr. Segal introduced such speakers as New York State Assemblyman David Weprin, director of the Igud HaRabonim, Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum, Manhigut Yehudit international director, Shmuel Sackett, Rabbi David Algaze of the Chavurat Israel synagogue in Forest Hills and President of the World Committee for the Land of Israel, Rev. Michael Faulkner (Congressional candidate for the 15th district in northern Manhattan), and executive director of the Shomron Liason Office, David HaIvri.
The keynote speakers were MK Danny Danon, Chairman of the World Likud movement and deputy speaker of the Knesset and Michael S. Steele, Chairman of the Republican National Committee. "Israeli settlements are not an obstacle to peace in the Middle East" said MK Danon. "They are assets to Israel that must be preserved at all costs", he intoned. Mr. Danon, a member of the Betar Zionist youth movement founded by the legendary Zionist revisionist leader Ze'ev Jabotinsky said that "Jerusalem will remain undivided; despite the pressure that Israel finds herself under by the Obama administration. The real threat to peace and stability in the region is the Iranian nuclear threat which is very real and very lethal and that is something that the US is reluctant to confront in the strongest terms", he declared. In a private interview subsequent to his speech Mr. Danon said, "If need be, Israel has the nuclear capability to deal with Iran's burgeoning nuclear arsenal. Israel did not attend the recent global nuclear summit in Washington because we don't need to be on the receiving end of pressure regarding nuclear disarmament, especially now, as the clock is ticking concerning a possible strike against us by Iran."
ALL IN HARMONY AT THE 17th ANNUAL ISRAEL DAY CONCERT IN CENTRAL PARK: (Standing L-R: Odeleya Jacobs, VP, World Committee for the Land of Israel; Drora and Dr. Paul Brody, Chairpersons, Israel Day
Concert in Central Park; Zev Brenner, Producer, TV broadcast of the Concert ; Guest Speaker, MK Danny Danon, Deputy Speaker Knesset, Chairman, World Likud; Dr. Joseph Frager, Concert Organizer; Guest Speaker, Michael Steele, Chairman, Republican National Committee (RNC) and David Ha'Ivri, Executive Director, Liaison Office, Shomron Region. Seated are Sylvia and CarFreyer, Concert Founders.) ( Photo Credit: Tzvi Fishman)
"We need very clear indications from Washington concerning its commitment to Israel's security", said Michael Steele, Chairman of the Republican National Committee. "And the major obstacle here is that we're not getting any indications from the Obama administration about what they are planning to do about the danger that Israel finds herself in, vis-a-via the Iranian nuclear threat. It is our belief that Israel should not be exhorted to make territorial concessions in the name of a false peace. We know that we cannot appease terrorists and the Palestinian Authority and the other Iranian proxies such as Hamas and Hezbollah are clearly dedicated to Israel's annihilation", he said.