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Parade-goers celebrate Jewish heritage, show support for Israel

Participants from Lincoln Park Jewish Center in Yonkers

Participants from Lincoln Park Jewish Center in Yonkers march in the 51st annual Celebrate Israel Parade along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan on Sunday, May 31, 2015. Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang / Yeong-Ung Yang

Tens of thousands of revelers marched up Manhattan's Fifth Avenue Sunday in celebration and support of Israel amid fluttering blue-and-white flags, melodic chants of "am Yisrael chai" and unique props such as a unicycle with spokes forming a Star of David.

"Everyone is here supporting Israel 100 percent," said Hannah Halpern, a retired teacher from Merrick, watching with the Israeli flag in hand.

Mayor Bill de Blasio danced with parade-goers to the Hebrew phrase that translates to "the people of Israel live."

"We have an extraordinary tie between the City of New York and the state of Israel," he told reporters. "It's profoundly personal; protecting the future of Israel is something so many New Yorkers care deeply about."

He was among dozens of city and state elected officials in attendance. Members of the Israeli Knesset, schoolchildren hoisting signs with doves on them and dozens of colorful floats blasting Yiddish pop music were also a part of the fun. The 17-block parade, with the theme "Israel Imagines" in its 51st year, stretched from midtown to the Upper East Side.

Rabbi Dovid Kupchik, of the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway said, "It's important to show up every year because each year the Jewish people have new challenges."

Israel has recently been the target of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, which criticizes the country's policies toward Palestinians and occupation of the West Bank. One man seen along the parade route held a sign that read, "Free Palestine."

"The more Jewish pride and Israeli pride we show, the more they will realize we're here to stay," said Kupchik, a West Hempstead resident marching with about 600 academy representatives.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo told reporters before the parade the state has a "certain cultural simpatico with our Jewish brothers and sisters," and described the relationship between the United States and Israel as a "strategic alliance" that "is in many ways more important today than ever before."

Ariella Levy, 47, visiting from Yokneam, Israel, said she was pleasantly surprised to come across the parade and watch masses of people celebrating Israel.

"It's very exciting to see everyone coming to support Israel," she said. "We didn't know so many Jewish people lived here."


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