Over 40,000 Jews, Israelis rally in New York for Celebrate Israel Parade

Some Likud ministers were told to miss the pro-Israel rally in fear of protests, which were mostly minor and under control.

Thousands of American Jews, Israelis, and Israel supporters protesting against Netanyahu’s government and their attempted judicial overhaul (GILI GELTZ)

Approximately 200 Israeli expats and American Jews protested against the government's plans to overhaul the judicial system at the annual Celebrate Israel Parade in New York City on Sunday, with a number of ministers and Knesset members in attendance.

A group of marchers led by former Consul General of New York Assaf Zamir, wore shirts that read "Zionism = Democracy", and chanted "Democracy". They were also joined by US Congressman Jerry Nadler. Some of the protestors yelled "shame" at Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee MK Simcha Rothman, one of the central figures in the government's reforms, as well as at Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distal-Atbaryan.

The demonstrations remained under control after the parade organizers were afraid of violent protests against the many MKs and ministers who had planned to participate.

Likud ministers told to miss NY pro-Israel rally in fear of protests

Innovation, Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis and Economy Minister Nir Barkat both canceled their scheduled appearance approximately an hour and a half before it was scheduled to begin, at the request of the prime minister's office.

"The march is a blessed thing. One or two representatives are enough, but half a government is not necessary," the prime minister's office said in response to a query. The prime minister's office refused an additional query as to why it was a problem for more than one or two ministers to march.

N12 suggested that the real motivation behind the request not to participate in the march was to avoid embarrassing scenes of protest by Israeli expats and American Jews who oppose the government's judicial reform.

 The Celebrate Israel Parade in New York City on June 4, 2023 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Celebrate Israel Parade in New York City on June 4, 2023 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

One of the protest movements against the government's judicial reforms wrote in response to the Likud ministers backing out, "The defendant [Netanyahu] and his coalition have understood: The protestors will protest and stress the illegitimacy of the dictatorial government. The American administration knows that this is an illegitimate government acting against the will of the people and therefore has not invited Netanyahu to the US, and tough protests today would only have strengthened the American administration's position."

"So actually, the ministers and Knesset members of the 'Bibist' party went for a vacation in New York at our expense. Add this to the NIS 14 billion that the citizens of Israel are paying this year so that the defendant can evade his [criminal] trial,"  

The ministers in New York who were scheduled to participate in the parade also included Aliyah and Integration Minister Ofir Sofer (Religious Zionist Party), Jerusalem Affairs and Jewish Tradition Minister Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism), Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu (Otzmah Yehudit) and Labor Minister Yoav Ben-Tzur (Shas). Porush and Ben-Tzur did not end up participating.

In addition to Rothman, the MKs scheduled to participate were Vladimir Beliak (Yesh Atid), Yitzhak Pindrus (UTJ), Evgeny Sova (Yisrael Beytenu), Michal Woldiger (RZP), Ohad Tal (RZP), Shalom Danino (Likud), Sharon Nir (Yisrael Beiteinu), Orit Farkash-HaCohen (National Unity Party) and Ram Ben Barak (Yesh Atid).

40,000 Jews, Israelis and Americans march in New York

Some 40,000 people marched in the parade, according to organizers' estimates. The parade is an annual event in New York City around Israel's Independence Day, and this year's parade was  the 58th in a row. Organizers stressed ahead of the parade that there would be different types of Jewish organizations represented in the parade, such as the progressive Ameinu organization on one hand, and Orthodox Jewish day schools on the other, and that the political tension was a side note.

“Most people at the parade don’t come for the Israeli ministers, they come because they want to support Israel,” one of the organizers said.

President Isaac Herzog recorded a special video in honor of the parade. “Let us take this opportunity to work together in solidarity and to remind ourselves of the power of our unity and togetherness of the spirit of peace and fraternity, to build, to renew and to heal,” Herzog said.

"Now, more than ever, I urge you all to join me in supporting the Israel parade, as we mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel. Let us raise our voices together to celebrate everything we’ve achieved and everything we have yet to build together for our shared future, and the future of our children,” Herzog said.

Sova, who marched alongside a delegation of the Jewish Agency and the Jewish Federations of North America, told The Jerusalem Post at the event that he was literally crying from emotion.

"I started crying during the parade; it was beautiful seeing people in wheelchairs, Americans, Jews, American military personnel, waving Israeli flags. This is a wonderful feeling; I have never felt like this before," Sova said.

He said that when asked in the US about being in the opposition and demonstrating against the reforms, that he wouldn't speak about the subject outside of Israel since it is "an internal Israeli issue." He said that he promised all of the Jews I met here in NY "that I will fight to keep Israel Jewish and democratic."

 Noa Tishby is seen marching as part of Celebrate Israel Parade in New York City on June 4, 2026 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Noa Tishby is seen marching as part of Celebrate Israel Parade in New York City on June 4, 2026 (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The politics surrounding the parade did not affect the excitement of its participants, and the participants were indeed diverse.

Harel Skaat was on the main float and sang while the many delegations from the New York area marched, including mainly Jewish delegations but also pro-Israel Christians. The groups were diverse, and included LGBT floats, as well as a float of the Jewish community in Hebron, the biblical city and a Nefesh B'Nefesh float promoting aliyah.

The streets intersecting with Fifth Avenue were teeming with yeshiva students in their matching t-shirts with their school names and logos celebrating 75 years of Israeli independence, their excited voices commingling into a roar as they waited their turn to begin marching. 

Schoolgirls from Shulamith in Brooklyn in blue three-quarter sleeve shirts practiced waving their flags in unison.

On one street, staff from the Hebrew Academy of Nassau County lined up giant banners with hand-drawn images of Israel. 

Members of the Tzofim, the Israeli Scouts Movement, marched in their khaki uniforms with green bandana ties around their necks. 

All the floats were lined up on one street. The Nefesh b'Nefesh float featured people in blue tie-dyed shirts, with Hebrew music blaring: "Here is our home, here is our heart." Another float carried a banner "Brooklyn Churches United for Israel," with Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists and others taking part. 

The parade came less than two days after Rothman was videotaped appearing to lose his temper with a group of protestors who were following him and shouting into a megaphone, turning around suddenly and snatching the megaphone out of a protester's hands.

In two video clips that circulated on social media, the protestors are heard yelling at the MK. Rothman, who is a central driving force behind the government's judicial overhaul legislation. After snatching the megaphone, continued walking, still holding the megaphone, as his security guards rushed to catch up with him.

In a second video clip, a protester can be seen running up to Rothman in an attempt to take back the megaphone. However, before he could approach the MK, he was thrown to the ground by a security guard, pulling a second protester down with him as he fell.

Rothman argued on Sunday that he had acted out of self-defense. According to a post he put up on Facebook, he and the security guards had repeatedly told the protestors to stay away, and "after all the warnings, I took the megaphone that the demonstrator had pushed into my ear - without touching [the demonstrator], of course. After about half a block we reached a place where we could go inside and wait for the police," whom Rothman's entourage had called earlier.

Rothman added, "During Shabbat, and also during my visit on Thursday, the Jewish community here welcomed me with great joy. With respect and appreciation. There is a lot of support and encouragement for promoting judicial reform, but even those few who do not agree with it came and were respectful." 

"The violent attackers came from Israel. In Israel, they represent a small and violent group; they do here, too. Demonstrating is allowed. It is forbidden to physically attack and harass Knesset members. The fact that [Yesh Atid chairman MK] Yair Lapid and [National Unity chairman MK] Benny Gantz do not condemn the violent attacks on Knesset members, and even encourage them, indicates more than anything else that they have become an opposition to the state," Rothman added.