Tens of thousands of supporters of Israel march in NY

"I love the spirit," said Noa Brandes, 13. "It's like a big family, everyone who loves Israel."

israel parade us 298 ap (photo credit: AP)
israel parade us 298 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Thousands of Israel supporters marched up Fifth Avenue on Sunday in the Salute to Israel Parade commemorating the 1948 founding of the Jewish state. Marchers sang "Hava Nagila," and waved the Star of David flag; many carried colorful paper torches indicating that Israel is the Biblical "light unto the nations." "It brings a tear to my eye," said Devora Cohen, a tourist from Tel Aviv who watched the parade. "I'm very happy." Mayor Michael Bloomberg led off the parade accompanied by Mayor Uri Lupolianski of Jerusalem. There were floats sponsored by El Al Airlines, the Zionist women's organization Hadassah and the Internet dating site JDate, among others. Contingents from yeshivas and Jewish day around the New York region marched in their school T-shirts. An eighth-grade group from Maimonides Academy in Los Angeles had come farther than most. "I love the spirit," said Noa Brandes, 13. "It's like a big family, everyone who loves Israel." Parade organizers said there were more than 100,000 marchers. Hundreds of spectators wearing "I (heart) Israel" buttons and stickers lined the parade route between 56th and 79th streets. "It's great to see the enthusiasm," said Vanessa Mortenson of upstate Oakfield, New York, who happened on the parade while trying to cross Fifth Avenue and said she hoped to visit the Holy Land with her church group next year. A few dozen pro-Palestinian protesters chanted "Nothing here to celebrate! Israel is a racist state!" behind a double row of police barricades. "It's really important to us that a group of Jews and Arabs get together to show a different vision for the Middle East," said Katie Unger of Jews Against the Occupation. In addition to Bloomberg, politicians marching included Gov. Eliot Spitzer, Rep. Jerrold Nadler and Rep. Anthony Weiner, who carried a bullhorn and shouted "Am Israel Chai!" or "Long Live Israel!"