NEW YORK – Over 30,000 participants were estimated to have taken part in
Sunday’s “Celebrate Israel” parade in New York City, commemorating Israel’s 63rd
year of independence with a march up Fifth Avenue from 57th to 74th
The Empire State Building was lit up in blue and white Saturday
night as a tribute to Israel, and blue and white decorations were made the
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Additionally, an inaugural four-mile
race through Central Park to commemorate Israeli independence prior to the
parade was sponsored by the New York Road Runners and the Jewish Community
Relations Council of New York.
Over 5000 runners participated in the
The parade used to be known as the “Salute to Israel”
parade, but this year, the name was changed to Celebrate Israel to focus on
celebrating Israel’s diversity and strengths. This year’s parade organizers made
an effort to touch base with Israelis living in the New York
Participants in the parade included New York City Mayor Michael
Bloomberg; New York Governor Andrew Cuomo; New York Senators Charles Schumer and
Kristen Gillibrand; Israeli Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs
Yuli Edelstein; Israeli Consul General Ido Aharoni; and Grand Marshal Joseph
Sitt, the New York real-estate developer and CEO of Thor Equities.
special guest participant was missing, due to having been denied a visa to
travel to the parade. Gheorghes (George) Exantus, a Haitian-champion salsa
dancer, had had a leg amputated because of damage from the 2010 earthquake.
Israeli doctors and physiotherapists treated him and, through prosthesis and
rehabilitation, enabled Exantus to dance again within eight
Exantus was to participate in the parade and dance at a concert
afterwards, however, last week, the US embassy in Haiti denied Exantus a travel
visa to the US, fearing Exantus would try to immigrate illegally. New Jersey
Senator Robert Menendez appealed the decision, but to no avail.
parade was broadcast on live television for the first time, and is said to be
the largest pro-Israel celebration in the world.
Some people carried
signs decrying US President Barack Obama’s recent Middle East speech.