By Yael Farber, NFTY-NAR Religious & Cultural Vice-President
“Am Yisrael Chai” The People of Israel Live
These words rang true down 5th Avenue in NYC last Sunday as thousands of Israel’s supporters marched together to celebrate. Among the thousands of people and more than 200 groups, NFTY-NAR stood in support. Under the banner of ARZA, NAR was loud and proud as we marched together.
My favorite day in June isn’t the last day of classes or the end of finals week, and it’s not the day I leave for camp– it’s the Celebrate Israel Parade. An entire day dedicated to the celebration of our homeland. Outside of Israel, this parade is the largest event in the entire world in support of Israel. For me, that’s just crazy to think about: that this huge celebration takes place a mere 30 minute train ride from my house. All the different marching groups have their own views, but we all gather on 5th Avenue for the same reason: to celebrate the place that we love. On Twitter, @CelebrateIsrael used #TogetherOnFifth to link all of the tweets about the parade. This hashtag says something much greater than people are simply tweeting about the parade; it says that we all stood together for something that’s important to us. Roughly 35,000 marchers from all denominations of Judaism, with different views on American politics and different Jewish customs, all stood together. We all represented Am Yisrael Chai.
The theme of the parade was Israel Branches Out, highlighting Israel’s fruitfulness, finding her roots and growing flowers and other crops. This theme immediately reminded me of the Tree of Life, our Torah. My Judaism is rooted in the Torah and in my connection to Israel. This parade theme connected two things that I love, and brought together 3 major elements of Judaism: Am (people), Eretz (land of Israel) and Torah. These 3 elements create a balanced Judaism that was reflected in the ruach of the thousands of marchers on 5th Avenue.
However, we were met with some opposition. As with every year, there is a group of protesters with signs standing on the side of the parade protesting the existence of Israel, actions that the Israeli government has taken and many other issues. But we don’t let them bring us down. As we walked past, we sang Oseh Shalom (Make Peace) at the top of our lungs.
Our second opposition didn’t challenge our vocal chords, it challenged our clothing choices. Even the wind, rain and clouds didn’t stop us from marching. While it might have physically rained on our parade, it didn’t rain on our ruach and our love for Israel.