New Yorkers celebrate Israel Pride on Hudson River

Dozens of boats and jet skis adorned with Israeli and US flags participated in the Fourth Annual Inspire Unity Celebrate Israel Water and Air Parade.

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July 1, 2019 09:43
3 minute read.
Fourth Annual Inspire Unity Celebrate Israel Water and Air Parade in New York on June 30, 2019.

Fourth Annual Inspire Unity Celebrate Israel Water and Air Parade in New York on June 30, 2019.. (photo credit: Courtesy)

NEW YORK – Over 100 people took to the Hudson River on Sunday to display their Israel pride.

Dozens of boats and jet skis adorned with Israeli and US flags participated in the Fourth Annual Inspire Unity Celebrate Israel Water and Air Parade.

Ben Kogan, the event’s lead organizer, told The Jerusalem Post that he never expected the parade to become an annual celebration.

Kogan was born in the Soviet Union, raised in Israel and immigrated to New York two decades ago. During Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, he gathered a group of like-minded “water enthusiasts” to show unity for Israel. 

“We stormed the city,” Kogan told the Post. “It was the first time we did it, unofficially, but it was inspiring. Hundreds of thousands of welcoming people waved at us from Coney Island shore. In 2015, there was no war, but people kept saying 'Let’s do it again.’”

By 2016, New Yorkers who did not own private boats or jet skis were reaching out to Kogan, saying they too wanted to participate. A few pilots took to the sky to show their support for Israel as well, decorating their private planes with the Star of David and flying over the boats. 

“We were able to charter a big boat for everyone,” Kogan said. “We now have it at the event each year. We don’t have big companies behind us, it is all friends telling their friends. Many people who attend are not even Jewish. Some just love Israel or just want to have fun in a good crowd.”  

Julia Hoagland and her husband Ed Aguayo were two of the participants in attendance to “have fun.” Aguayo is a Peruvian Catholic and Hoagland said she does not identify with any religion. Neither have traveled to Israel, but it was their second year attending the event.

“Any connection I have to Israel is purely social,” Hoagland told the Post following the parade. “Because I have no real connection to Israel, everyone here gives me information that I wouldn’t find in my own circles. It’s a great way to have a cultural experience without leaving the country,” she said.

Avi Cobin is a pilot who has supported the event annually by flying over in his private plane. Cobin told the Post that due to wind on Sunday, no planes could fly over, but he still participated on a private boat.

“It was an emotional day,” Cobin said. “We didn’t get any negativity. So many people were cheering for us. If a major US city is going to do something to recognize our home, we’re going to be there.” 

Esther Serok, representative of the World Zionist Organization North America, spoke on the main yacht, which also included DJ entertainment, kosher food and a cash bar. Participants gathered to sing “Hatikvah” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” 

“Today was full of a lot of dancing, cheering and flag-waving,” Kogan said.

The procession departed from the Brooklyn Army Terminal and passed the Coney Island shoreline, Verrazzano Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.

Kogan referred to the water as a “unique outlet to express that antisemitism is on the rise and to give a feeling of belonging.”

“When you are in the city walking between blocks, only people across the street can see you,” he told the Post. “When you are in the water, everyone can see you. In order to deliver a message, the more people you can reach, the louder the message will be. When people on the shore see us, everyone wishes they could be in the water too.”


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