UK's first 'Salute to Israel' parade sweeps through London and Manchester

"It is our way of expressing our love for Israel, our thanksgiving for the past and our hopes for the future," said British Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks.

pro-israel march JP (photo credit: Benjy Turgel)
pro-israel march JP
(photo credit: Benjy Turgel)
LONDON - The UK's first-ever "Salute to Israel" parade swept through the streets of central London and Manchester on Sunday. In London, more than 50 carnival floats, accompanied by bands, dancers and cyclists, were joined by over 10,000 revellers, who lined the street along Piccadilly to Piccadilly Circus. The parade ended with a rally in Trafalgar Square where, organizers said, over 30,000 people converged. The Manchester parade ended with a huge celebration in the city's Heaton Park. Organized and supported by a wide range of Anglo-Jewish organizations under the direction of the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council, the parade - intended to show solidarity with and support for Israel - was part of the UK's celebrations of Israel's 60th anniversary. "It is our way of expressing our love for Israel, our thanksgiving for the past and our hopes for the future," said British Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks. Secretary of State for Schools and Families Ed Balls paid tribute to Israel, saying that while the UK has lived with the threat of terrorism for the last few years, people in the UK did not understand what Israeli citizens had to confront on a daily basis. Balls also spoke about the people of Sderot, saying, "We admire their courage and determination to live their lives, to finish their schooling and fulfil their dreams," he said, to huge applause. Diaspora Affairs Minister Issac Herzog, who attended the event, hit out at Israel's detractors who - he said - did not "have a clue" about Israel and about Israelis or the country's achievements and struggles. A message of thanks from President Shimon Peres was relayed on huge screens and London Mayor Boris Johnson welcomed revellers. Celebrity messages of support from Bill Clinton, Michael Douglas, Ashton Kutcher, Ben Stiller and Billy Crystal were also transmitted on the screens. A wide array of performers, including Israeli punk band Useless ID, Grammy Award-winning violinist Miri Ben-Ari and Jewish rap artist Antithesis, provided the entertainment. "This event has been more than a year in the making," said Henry Grunwald, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. "The aim has been not only to celebrate Israel's 60th birthday, but also to ensure that for all the criticisms frequently made of Israel in the UK, its many achievements as a vibrant, dynamic and diverse country are properly and publicly marked. "It all come together today fantastically, and, whatever the weather, everyone, the thousands participating in the parades in London and Manchester, and all those watching as the parades pass by and then joining us in Trafalgar Square or Heaton Park, will experience a day to remember. Let no one ever say again that the British Jewish community is afraid to stand up publicly for what it believes in!" Grunwald declared.