Tens of thousands assembled on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue for the 48th annual Israel Day Parade today.
From Jewish day school contingents to the Chai Riders motorcycle club to non-Jewish marching bands to corporate sponsors riding on floats, some 35,000 marchers from 200 organizations headed up the avenue festooned with Israel’s blue and white.
The theme of this year’s parade was “Israel Branches Out,” with parade director Michael Mittelman expecting participants to be dressing up as fruit, nature, agriculture and even technology.
“This is the biggest celebratory Israel-themed event anywhere in the world,” Mittelman, the, told JTA last week. “This year, we want to celebrate how Israel is contributing positively to the world.”
Turnout for the parade, which began in 1964, usually is a function of what’s happening in Israel – and the weather. In years when Israel has been embattled, such as during the second intifada, participation swelled. In 2002, an estimated 750,000 spectators came to watch 100,000 marchers.
“We are proud to be the major supporter of what is the largest annual pro-Israel event outside the Jewish state itself,” said John Ruskay, UJA-Federation’s executive vice president and CEO. “Whether marching in the parade or lining Fifth Avenue to show our support, this is one time of the year when we put aside our differences and demonstrate how we come together for Israel when it matters most.”