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Celebrate Israel parade steps off in Manhattan on Sunday

Viewers cheer on marchers during the Celebrate Israel

Viewers cheer on marchers during the Celebrate Israel parade along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan on Sunday, June 4, 2017. Credit: Steven Sunshine

Thousands of people marched and danced along Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue Sunday to show support for Israel during the annual Celebrate Israel parade, rejoicing despite security concerns after Saturday’s terror attack in London.

Waving Israeli flags and cheering, about 40,000 marchers saluted the country’s culture and heritage. They were joined by elected officials including Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Sen. Chuck Schumer, who all reassured New Yorkers that they are safe.

Cuomo, who said his support for Israel “is strong and solid and will not change,” highlighted that the United States and Israel have long worked together on counterterrorism issues.

“We see how pervasive terrorism is now . . . it’s clear that both Israel and the U.S. are fighting the same issue of terrorism,” said Cuomo, who issued a state proclamation declaring the day as “Shimon Peres Day” in honor of the late Israeli prime minister.

The NYPD deployed “a heavier presence at key locations around the city,” including the parade, after terrorists attacked pedestrians with speeding trucks and knives in two areas of London on Saturday, de Blasio told reporters. In Manhattan, blocker trucks were positioned at intersections to prevent cars from driving onto the parade route.

“We every day are on high alert here in New York City,” de Blasio said, noting he did not want New Yorkers to be alarmed by seeing “heavily armed” officers.

“That is cause for comfort, seeing the NYPD out in strength to protect us against any situation,” said de Blasio, who later went to have coffee with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who was honored in the parade. “They’re the finest force in the world, ready to address any situation.”

Pointing to the NYPD’s importance in preventing terror attacks, Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on President Donald Trump to reconsider proposed budget cuts to federal counterterrorism programs that aid local law enforcement agencies.

“Our New York City police need these funds, so I hope that the first thing that the President would do is restore those funds,” the senate minority leader said in a news conference before walking in the parade.

Many in the crowd said the celebration was too important to miss, even with security concerns and rain.

“It’s been a hard year for a lot of people,” said Shoshana Koppel, 16, of Hempstead. “There’s been a lot of terrible things going on in the world, but we should still come out and show our pride.”

Shani Ratzker, of Bergen County, New Jersey, said “a little bit” of fear was not going to keep her from seeing her 10-year-old son marching in the parade with his school for the first time.

“We were going to be here no matter what,” Ratzker, 40, said, noting the event was so “touching” that it “brings me to tears.”

The parade, which also honored former New York Giants Player Tiki Barber, kicked off with a man blowing a shofar — the ram’s horn typically used during religious celebrations — from the back of a vintage convertible. Stilt-walkers, clowns, jugglers, bikers and bands elevated the event’s festive mood.

Haim Brandspiegel of Woodmere said the parade was “exciting” because Israel is “central” to his life and identity.

“I love to see all the support from every walk of life,” said Brandspiegel, a cardiologist at Plainview Hospital Northwell Health. “Support for the Jewish state is critical for the security of Jews around the world, for maintaining Jewish identity around the world, and for knowing that Israel is truly home.”

With Ivan Pereira and Alison Fox

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