Marching along

New York’s Israel Parade sees no real issues despite protests

Tens of thousands of people march down Fifth Avenue to celebrate Israel, including demonstrators against government’s judicial overhaul

New York’s Celebrate Israel Parade went off without a serious hitch on Sunday, with tens of thousands of people – unofficial estimates put it at 50,000 – marching down New York’s Fifth Avenue, as dozens of people on the sidelines protested the inclusion of members of Israel’s governing coalition in the annual event.

Ahead of the parade, its chief organizer, Gideon Taylor, the CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, predicted that the event would be “noisy and chaotic,” and that indeed appeared to be the case.

Within the parade, approximately 1,000 people – many of them Israeli expats who are members of the UnXeptable protest group – marched with the Labor Zionist Ameinu organization, wearing T-shirts and holding signs with slogans like “Zionism = Democracy” and “NYC [loves] Israeli Democracy” in an approved form of demonstration against the Israeli government’s proposed judicial overhaul.

Among the marchers were local and state-wide politicians, like New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, as well as national figures like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Jewish and Israeli performers, including Noa Kirel, fresh off placing third in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, and singer Harel Skaat, as well as Matisyahu and Kosha Dillz, performed at the parade.

More than a dozen Israeli parliamentarians and ministers marched, though at least three ministers who had initially been slated to attend – Economy Minister Nir Barkat, Science Minister Ofir Akunis and Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Minister Meir Porush – ultimately did not.

Dozens of protesters who appeared on the sidelines of the march heckled the ministers and Knesset members in attendance, notably Knesset Member Simcha Rothman, one of the architects of the government’s judicial overhaul, who had a physical altercation with a protester over the weekend, in which he ripped a megaphone out of the woman’s hands. He claimed that she and other protesters had harassed him and his wife and made them feel unsafe. The protester filed a police complaint against Rothman, but police dropped the investigation against him.

During the parade, Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli was photographed appearing to show his middle finger to a group of protesters, sparking outrage. Chikli later said he had not intentionally shown his middle finger to the demonstrators but was instead telling them to smile, pushing up his cheeks with only his middle finger as he was holding something with his index finger.

In most years, New York’s annual Celebrate Israel Parade sees only minor protests by pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist groups, who also appeared at this year’s event, but were largely ignored by the participants.  

While the parade itself did not see any serious conflicts or major external demonstrations, hundreds of protesters appeared outside the Jerusalem Conference that was hosted by the Israeli media Besheva Group in New York on Sunday afternoon after the event, where several government ministers and Knesset members spoke.

Similar protests were scheduled for Monday outside the Jerusalem Post’s conference, where members of the government were also slated to appear.