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Parade for Israel in NYC focuses on solidarity this year as Gaza war casts a grim shadow

NEW YORK (AP) — An annual New York City parade for Israel that draws thousands of people kicked off Sunday with heightened security and a focus on solidarity during the war in Gaza.

The parade comes almost eight months after the unprecedented Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, the deadliest in Israel’s history. The parade in the past was dubbed “Celebrate Israel,” but organizers said the exuberant atmosphere would be paused this year given the war and Israeli hostages still being held in captivity, as well as outbursts of antisemitism worldwide.

People chanted “Bring them home now!” and waved Israeli flags as they marched along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Crowds of spectators lined the route of what this year is being called “Israel Day on Fifth.”

Mark Treyger, CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council, said earlier this week that the event would focus on solidarity, strength and resilience.

“This is not a mood of confetti and music,” Treyger said. “This is more of a mood of unwavering, ironclad solidarity with hostages to bring them home, and also our unwavering love and pride in our Jewish identity.”

The parade, which is in its 59th year, kicked off at about 11:30 a.m. Sunday and was expected to draw more than 40,000 participants, including Israeli dignitaries, celebrities and some of the hostages’ families.

There was never a thought of canceling the parade this year, Treyger said, despite what he termed an astronomical rise in antisemitism.

“This is a moment that we have to meet,” he said.

But there was significant security.

New York Police Department officials said Friday they plan to implement measures typically used for high-profile events such as New Year’s Eve and July 4. That includes drones, K-9 units, bike patrols, fencing and barriers and designated entry points for spectators all along the parade route.

Backpacks, large bags and coolers will be prohibited. Spectators will have to pass through metal detectors and only be allowed to line the east side of Fifth Avenue, with police blocking off the west side.

City officials stressed Friday there were no specific or credible threats to either the parade or the city and any protestors have the right to demonstrate so long as its done peacefully.

“We’re not going to allow any unlawfulness and any disruption of any celebration of one’s heritage in this city,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said at a security briefing.

The parade represents the first large-scale Jewish event in the city since the war started, although there have been roughly 2,800 protests in the city, with about 1,300 of them related to the conflict, the Democrat said.

Israel faces growing international criticism over its offensive in Gaza, at a huge cost in civilian lives. Israeli bombardments and ground offensives in the besieged territory have killed more than 36,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians.

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