Philadelphia's celebration of Israel 60.
Israel 60 Independence Parade
Energetic audience undaunted by the rain.
-- John Oliver Mason
A lively parade fronted by Camp Galil and students of Perelman Jewish Day School proceeded along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway around noon in bright sunshine, Sunday, May 18, 2008. As floats inched along, Jews young and old trailed after them, waving Israeli flags and singing songs. Parade goers flaunted their enthusiasm. Pride and laughter garnished the floats. Groups dispensed shirts to their participants, making them look both unified and ready to go. Per usual, friends who hadn’t seen one another in years joyfully reunited in the street. Onlookers raised their eyes questioningly upon seeing such excitement for a country’s birthday.
Participating in the parade were such groups as Habonim
Dror (The Labor Zionist youth group; alumni of Camp Galil, the Labor Zionist summer camp; Philadelphia County Council of the Jewish War Veterans; Jewish National Fund; Perelman Jewish Day School and Barrack Hebrew
Academy (formerly Akiva Academy); Kehillah of Bux-Mont, Center City Kehillah, and Kehillah of Chester County; Star of David Motorcycle Club; Synagogues such as Congregation Adath Jeshurun, Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir, Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel, SJCC-B’Nai Aaron, Germantown Jewish Centre, Main Line Reform Temple, Congregation Mikveh Israel, Brith Tzedek V’Shalom, Tiferet Bet Israel, Congregation Or Hadash; Congregation B’Nai Israel-Ohev Tzedek, Congregation Beth Or, Temple Sinai, and Congregation Or Ami of Laffayette Hill.
The Quaker City String Band and the Philadelphia Police and Fire Pipe and Drum Corps provided music for the march.
The sky had begun to darken, as the head of the parade passed the Rodin Museum. Along the route, there were groups of pro-Palestinian demonstrators who protested the founding of the State in1949. At the second group of protesters, the students of Barrack Academy sang Am Yisrael Chai (The People of Israel Live) and
Hatikva (the Israeli national anthem). The march continued down the Parkway to the festival at Eakins Oval, in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, when the rains began to come in earnest. Neither the menacing thunderheads nor the al-Nakba
remembrance demonstrators succeeded in fazing parade goers.
Mayor Michael Nutter, Congressman Patrick Murphy,
and other notables enthusiastically greeted demonstrators as they arrived at the Oval. Inside, Representative Mark Cohen met and greeted marchers. After the rains started in earnest, everyone was packed into tents so tightly, it was difficult to get around, and hard to be sure that one had met everyone who wanted to be met.
Programs took place in several tents. The main tent was the “Jerusalem Shuk” where Israeli crafts were for sale along the outer wall. In the center of the tent, several groups maintained literature tables, including B’nai B’rith International, Lubavich of Center City, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Magen David Adom, Friends of the Israel Armed Forces, Jewish relief Agency, InterFaithways (a support network for interfaith families), Habonim Dror of North America, Amit, the Hebrew Free Loan Society, Theatre Ariel, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society,
(HIAS), skincare products from the Dead Sea, the Ulpan Hebrew study program, and the National Tay-Sachs and Allied Diseases Association. One tent was sponsored by the Kehillah of Center City , which held Israeli dancing. The Kehillah of Old York Road had a tent where they showed Israeli films, and ShopRite sponsored a “Taste of Israel” Pavillion. The children’s stage had performances by Andi Joseph, the Musical Mommy, and Miss Lisa, Inc.
Festivities ran as planned, albeit with fewer people, even when the sky ruptured and roared with the downpour. Choirs and pop groups seized attention on stage in front of a thin but energetic audience, undaunted by the rain. A dedicated clan of Israeli dancers continued dancing for a short while after the rain began, but eventually the parking lot became slippery, and people were soaked to their skin, forcing them to scatter. The Israeli film tent swelled with people trying to stay dry. Parents shepherded their kids into the tent specially designated for children’s entertainment, or into the shuk. The throngs perusing the stalls to escape the rain made every tent resemble the shuks of Jerusalem. One of the identifiably Israeli t-shirts read “Make falafel, not war”.
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