JERUSALEM (May. 7)
More than 300,000 people lined a four-and-a-half mile route of march in 90 degree weather this morning to watch a display of Israel’s military might in the longest, largest and most spectacular Independence Day parade in the nation’s 25-year history.
The parade began at 10 a.m. but the 55,000 grandstand ticket holders were in their seats hours before, and tens of thousands of others, many of them up before dawn, sought vantage points along the route that began in East Jerusalem and ended in a West Jerusalem suburb Hundreds of thousands of other Israelis and tourists watched the parade on television. Thousands more chose to ignore it and celebrated Independence Day picnicking in the mountains and beaches.
Security was strict. Grandstand ticket-holders were searched by police before taking their seats, and once seated were told not to leave. The only mishap of the day occurred when a security helicopter made a forced landing near the Augusta Victoria Hospital on Mt. Scopus, injuring nine crew members, none seriously. In another untoward incident a tank went slightly off course and hit a soldier along the parade route in downtown Jerusalem. An Army spokesman said his injuries were minor. No one else was hurt.
President Zalman Shazar, Premier Golda Meir, and former Premier David Ben-Gurion watched the parade from the official reviewing stand facing Police Headquarters in the Sheikh Jarrah quarter of East Jerusalem. Mrs. Meir wore a white handkerchief around her head to shield her eyes from the blazing sun. They sat in the stand for 90 minutes while the three main elements of the parade passed in review–the Air Force, the armored corps and the infantry.
PREPONDERANCE OF U.S.-MADE WEAPONS
Observers noted the preponderance of American-made weaponry both in the air and on the ground. The display of Israel’s air power was led by supersonic Phantom jets which roared overhead in low level squadrons of three at 500 mph. American Skyhawk attack planes and huge Stratocruiser transports were part of the air show along with French Mirages, American and French combat helicopters, and an Israeli-made jet trainer adapted from the French Fouga Magister design.
Israelis took special pride in the giant Patton (American) and Centurion (British) tanks that rumbled by, many of them rebuilt and re-engined by Israeli technicians to improve their speed and fire power. Also totally rebuilt and virtually new were the Soviet-made T-55 and T-54 tanks captured in the Six-Day War and. 240 m.n. Russian made Katyusha rocket launchers.
Israel’s armament industry was represented by self-propelled heavy mortars mounted on Sherman tank chassis and self-propelled 155 mm. cannon of Israeli design. Three types of American artillery passed in review along with units of 70 and 22 mm. anti-aircraft guns and American-made Hawk surface-to-air missiles.
About 2000 infantrymen marched in the parade along with paratroopers and combat engineers. The parade, the first Independence Day military display since 1968, cost Israel IL 20 million and was three months in preparation. Plans for the parade aroused the ire of Jordan and other Arab states which protested to the United Nations.
Many Israelis expressed the feeling that it was extravagant and unduly provocative. Critics were reminded that Israel’s military establishment could not be left out of the celebration of the nation’s 25th anniversary. The need to remind the Arabs of Israel’s military might was also cited.
BOMB SCARE REPORTED
Jerusalem police, augmented by security personnel had the mammoth task of organizing security and maintaining a smooth flow of traffic in and around Jerusalem before and after the parade They noted with pride that everything worked according to plan. The city was closed off to all traffic except buses and taxis last night. When the parade ended, tens of thousands of spectators boarded buses which left Jerusalem by specially designated exit routes. After the initial rush, traffic moved smoothly and no traffic jams were reported.
Police spokesman Michael Bochner disclosed tonight that there had been one bomb scare. An unidentified person telephoned the Hadera police station at noon to say that a bomb would go off at the parade. The parade route was searched but no bomb was found.
Jerusalem weather suddenly changed drastically late this afternoon. A-sharp dust storm enveloped the capital in swirling grit while temperatures dropped. By then, however, the parade was long over and most out of towners on their way home.