Some years New York City's Salute to Israel Parade, now dubbed the Celebrate Israel Parade, has generated its share of controversy. Typically there are warnings of terrorism threats or threats of political protests. But this year the Israel Parade was greatly overshadowed by the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade. Why? Because a man named Oscar Rivera Lopez had been invited to be a Grand Marshal, and he had been in prison for over 20 years as a member of the group FALN, which had been responsible for bombings and even some deaths in the name of Puerto Rican nationalism.

So the Israel Parade came and went with less fanfare, and less rain than last year (although there were periods of light rain that put a dent on attendance to some extent). Once again I marched with the group Young Judaea, and this year both my daughters marched as well. This was J's second outing and M's first. When we showed up at East 52nd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, we found our group and received royal blue T-shirts with designs silk screened on the back and front. The shirt reads "Squad Goals" and features cartoon sketch faces of Theodore Herzl, David Ben Gurion, Golda Meir and the Young Judaea Lion mascot. Other Zionist youth groups and organizations were also amassing on this block. Although we originally thought we might start marching at 11:15AM, it was only at 11:50 that we were told to start moving onto 5th Avenue for the duration of the Parade.

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We were ahead of a Sanitation Department truck (it did not smell) featuring workers who waved American and Israeli flags. And behind this was a contingent including NYC's Mayor Bill deBlasio. He is tall and gray haired, and more about him later.

There is a special magic to strolling along the legendary 5th Avenue in Manhattan, as part of a parade. You are part of a group but you are also on display. People along the streets wave to you, and if they know you they'll call out your name and cheer. Along the route we saw members of our synagogue, the East Midwood Jewish Center of Brooklyn, and we waved boisterously to them.
At a few of the reviewing stands each group is announced as it walks by and that adds to the thrill.

The spirit is quite high but it was tarnished a bit by the anticipated group of protestors. Early along the route there is the annual group of ultra-Orthodox men with long beards who shout at each group (and many of us "flipped them the bird" in response) as well as about 20 Muslim people waving Palestinian flags. M was a bit creeped out to see a kid from her high school in this group. But later on a group of Jewish protestors, near the end of the parade, were booing marchers. We actually saw one woman getting arrested because she tried to climb over a metal Police Department barricade and then she flailed at a cop. Not smart.

But for the most part the Parade was an enjoyable experience. I feel a responsibility to march and show NYC, the state, the world and of course Israel that there are people cheering and supporting it. I have attended this march every year since I was 10 or 11, and either marched  (with school, with Young Judaea or with my synagogue) or stood as a spectator along the route.

My girls enjoyed being involved as well. They made their mark on Social Media accounts with photos.

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