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Israel Parade celebrates diversity, nation state's founding

Maayan Shmid, 6, of Israel marches in the

Maayan Shmid, 6, of Israel marches in the 50th annual Celebrate Israel Parade along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan on Sunday, June 1, 2014. Credit: Charles Eckert

Revelers at Manhattan's 50th Celebrate Israel Parade Sunday honored the Israeli-American bond that has developed over the generations with the waving of blue-and-white flags and the blowing of shofars.

"It's an amazing celebration. It allows us to express ourselves so freely and to support the state of Israel, even though we're proud Americans," said Samuel Koren, 40, who marched with the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway. "The situation in Israel is a complicated one, but we're supportive of the state of Israel, of its government."

Koren, who attended with his family and has been going to the parade for about 20 years, carried a hula hoop modified to showcase a Star of David and a dove of peace. A shofar is an instrument made from the horn of a ram or other kosher animal.

Tens of thousands of participants and spectators enjoyed floats, marching bands and performers on stilts and unicycles as they traveled up Fifth Avenue. The parade included toddlers in strollers; day-school students; college-age Hillel members; war veterans; Jewish lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups; and politicians with the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. It served also as a celebration of the 66th anniversary of Israel's founding, marked in early May.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito were among the elected officials in attendance.

"It reminds us as New Yorkers how lucky we are to live in New York and the diversity we have and the mix that we are and how proud we are of it," Cuomo told reporters. "The Jewish community's very important to us in New York. They're a very large community, a community that we've all grown up with."

Honorary grand marshal Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, an FDNY chaplain, walked alongside the Rev. Brian McWeeney, of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, and celebrated multifaith support for Israel as one of countless positive developments over the years. Pope Francis visited Israel just last week, Potasnik pointed out.

Pope Francis made history on the trip as the first pope to visit the tomb of Theodor Herzl, a founder of modern Zionism.

Rabbi Yotav Eliach, principal of Rambam Mesivta High School in Lawrence, marched with nearly 200 students, teachers and others clad in orange. Eliach similarly noted Israel's ever-broadening coalition of supporters.

"It's more diverse than it's ever been, the different types of groups that support Israel," Eliach said. "Like the city has become more diverse and the United States has become more diverse, I think the support for Israel is more broad-based now than it's ever been. To me, it's a celebration."

Eliach, of Woodmere, said he has attended the parade since it began when he was a child and has only missed one or two due to illness.

Sunday's parade featured a 16-plane flyover salute high above Fifth Avenue.

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