Some 20,000 people attended Britain’s first ever Salute to Israel parade and rally.
According to the organizers – a coalition of major community bodies – Sunday’s events were inspired by New York’s annual Salute to Israel parade, and were designed to express solidarity and support of Israel at its 60th anniversary, as well as to show unity within the British Jewish community, transcending religious and political affiliations.
The program opened with a parade from London’s famous Ritz Hotel to Trafalgar Square, led by a group of war veterans and followed by several thousand marchers waving Israeli and British flags, dozens of carnival floats, cyclists, dancers and bands.
At the Trafalgar Square rally following the march, Israel’s Minister for Diaspora Affairs Isaac Herzog, British Secretary of State for Education Ed Balls, Britain’s Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks and other community leaders addressed the flag-waving crowds that filled the square. The audience welcomed enthusiastically the many Israeli artists who performed between the speeches.
At least two pro-Palestinian demonstrations were held nearby but were generally peaceful.