Thousands attend march for Israel in NY

NY Mayor, TA Mayor Huldai, Deputy FM lead Salute to Israel march; Bloomberg meets Schalit's parents.

new york schalit bloomberg 248 88 (photo credit: )
new york schalit bloomberg 248 88
(photo credit: )
Tens of thousands of supporters of Israel crowded New York's Fifth Avenue on Sunday as part of the annual parade celebrating the birth of the Jewish state in 1948. This year's parade also commemorated the centenary of the city of Tel Aviv. One contingent wore I (heart) Tel Aviv T-shirts, and another group rolled a giant birthday cake up the avenue. Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai was an honorary grand marshal and donned a pair of "100" glasses in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the largest city in Israel. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. David Paterson led off the parade, followed by floats blasting Israeli pop music and teenagers from yeshivas and Jewish day schools. Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon also participated in the march. Florence Keusch of Paramus, NJ was watching for the group from North Shore Hebrew Academy on Long Island, her grandchildren's school. "I'm waiting to see them and enjoying this gorgeous day," she said on sun-slashed Fifth Avenue. Marching with SAR High School from the Riverdale section of the Bronx, senior Jon Greenberg said the May 20 arrests of four men charged with plotting to bomb synagogues there was "scary." "We felt kind of protected," he said. "But it was scary because that kind of thing does happen." Lazar Karalitzky, of Queens, waved a blue and white Israeli flag and said he attends the parade almost every year. "I came to support Israel," Karalitzky said. "We just hope that there should be peace." Some spectators were wondering what role US President Barack Obama will play after he challenged Israel last week to stop building West Bank settlements. "I don't think Barack Obama should be strong-arming the Israeli government," said Darren Peister of New Rochelle, NY. But his wife, Jayne Peister, said Obama brings "a different perspective" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "For 60 years we've not had peace," she said. "Maybe this different perspective can bring peace to Israel." During a brief meeting at the start of the parade, Bloomberg expressed his sympathy to Noam and Aviva Schalit, captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit's parents. "It was a very emotional conversation," said David Saranga, the consul for media and public affairs at the Consulate-General in New York. Saranga said the Schalits were in New York to drum up support from American Jews and "to raise attention to the humanitarian issue of Gilad Schalit." According to a spokesman for the mayor, Bloomberg shook hands with the Schalits and marched in the parade wearing a pin showing solidarity with their son.