NEW YORK (May. 7)
A festive, jubilant crowd estimated at some 200,000 marchers and spectators celebrated Israel’s 30th anniversary here today with the annual Salute to Israel Parade on Fifth Avenue, followed by a massive gathering on Central Park’s Sheep’s Meadow where they were addressed by Premier Menachem Begin and treated to a camival of Israeli entertainment and Israeli foods, ranging from gourmet dishes to the ubiquitous falafel, music, song and arts and crafts displays.
The parade, which started at 11 a.m., drew a mammoth crowd despite cloudy skies and intermittent rain this morning. Families carried American and Israeli flags and balloons proclaiming Israel’s 30th birthday. Youngsters and adults wore buttons with slogans such as “Peace and Shalom,” “Long Live Israel” and “I am a Zionist.” Other buttons supported a variety of Israeli causes from “aliya” to “Freedom for Soviet Jewry” and financial aid to Israel.
Many spectators wore T-shirts inscribed with the words “I am a Zionist Hoodlum,” a reference to the remark by actress Vanessa Redgrave at the recent Oscar Awards ceremony.
The parade, sponsored by the American Zionist Youth Foundation, extended two miles from its starting point at 57th Street. At least 100,000 marchers took part. In addition to contingents from Jewish organizations and scores of Hebrew schools in the metropolitan area, they included battalions of New York City police and firemen, dozens of bands, high-stepping drum majorettes and scores of floats. One group, dressed in space-age costumes, paraded to music from the science fiction film “Star Wars” under signs proclaiming, “It’s Great to be Free After 2000 Years.”
TIGHTEST SECURITY MEASURES
Security measures were the tightest ever seen at an Israel Independence Day Parade. Thousands of police locked arms to keep the crowds back along the line of march. Israeli and American security and secret service men were everywhere. Police helicopters hovered just above rooftop level. All streets adjacent to the reviewing stand at 69th Street were closed to traffic and pedestrians.
Begin, smiling, acknowledged the cheers of the crowd with a wave, and declared, “The State of Israel lives and will live forever.” The Premier was flanked by dignitaries, including Gov. Hugh Carey, Mayor Edward Koch and New York’s two Senators, Jacob K. Javits and Daniel P. Maynihan.
About a mile away, on the fringes of the parade area, about 100 members of the Palestine Action Coalition demonstrated against Israel with signs reading “Begin, Murderer.” Police kept them well away from the celebrants and no incidents occurred.
Another group, consisting of several dozen persons who called themselves the Coalition of Concerned Progressive Jews, demonstrated against Begin’s policy of retaining Arab territory. After the parade, some of them mingled with the throngs at Sheep’s Meadow carrying signs that said “Peace Now” and “Peace in the Land is More Important than Pieces of Land.”
FESTIVE MOOD PREVAILS
The Meadow was a sea of people whose happy mood was greeted by bright sunshine that emerged from the clouds in the afternoon. If anything, security was even heavier on the grassy meadow. Police and plainclothesmen with walkie-talkie radios were everywhere. The area behind the stage where Begin was to speak was cleared of all spectators and patrolled by guards. Helicopters circled overhead continuously.
While waiting for Begin’s arrival, the crowds visited various stages labeled Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem and other Israeli-named cities. They sampled Israeli wines and dishes–a huge falafel stand was the busiest–and watched Israeli performers and inspected Israeli handicrafts and art objects.
Begin’s appearance at Sheep’s Meadow evoked tumultuous applause and cheers. He shook hands with people in the crowd and seemed unconcerned with security precautions. The highlight of his short speech, with dealt with the history of the Jewish people, was when he asked the Arabs to give up their designs to destroy Israel. “I say Israel will never be destroyed.” Begin was scheduled to leave tonight for Israel.
1800 CELEBRATE IN WASHINGTON
Meanwhile, in Washington 1800 persons celebrated Israel’s 30th anniversary by walking 10 miles to raise money for the Israel Emergency Fund. Some 180 similar United Jewish Appeal-sponsored walk-a-thons were being held across the country.
The Washington walk which raised $70,000 ended on the Ellipse where Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D.Md.) said a strong Israel “represents an element of order and stability and provides our best assurance against miscalculations on the part of Israel’s hostile neighbors that would have devastating consequences not only for their people but for the whole world.” Sarbanes stressed that “peace can be achieved only through negotiations between all the parties concerned and negotiations are possible only if Israel is strong.”