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 are heading up the avenue festooned with Israel’s blue and white.
The theme of this year’s parade is “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.”
Organizers expect counter-demonstrations to take place, as with every year, usually made up of a handful of anti-occupation protesters and the fringe, anti-Zionist Neturei Karta Chasidic group – hold a small rally near the parade, which runs from 57th to 74th streets.
This year, hawkish critics of the New Israel Fund mounted a public relations campaign to try to get the NIF, which funds liberal Israeli groups and a few Israeli Arab organizations, excluded from the parade. The critics charge NIF with being anti-Israel and in favor of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. Neither charge is true, and the calls to exclude NIF were ignored.
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