Hundreds of people who gathered at Marquee to celebrate Israel’s 65th birthday Monday night were joyful but at the same time saddened by news of the terror attack in Boston.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg attends the yearly event, which last night was organized by Dor Chadash and JSpac. But last night, those who came to the beginning of the event heard the surreal words of the mayor, who spoke while many more cameras were on hand than usual.
“Nobody yet knows how many people will die,” Bloomberg said, referring to the attacks in Boston and confirming that an eight-year-old boy had died.
He said New York City has been preparing for the past 12 years to prevent a terrorist attack in the city.
“If you see something that looks strange, just pick up the phone and say something,” Bloomberg said. “But at the same time, we refuse to let cowardly acts of violence stop us from living in our city – the city that we love. That has been the defining spirit of our city since the attacks of 9/11 and it’s the spirit we’ve also seen first-hand in Israel. Israelis understand probably as much as anybody on the face of the earth what it’s like to live under constant threat of attack and they understand just how important it is to not give in to the threats. We feel the same way here in New York City and that gives us a special bond with the people of Israel and all those who live in places that have been targeted for acts of violence.”
Israeli Consul General to New York Ido Aharoni said he hoped those responsible would be brought to justice as soon as possible.
“This is not an easy day for the American people,” he said, adding that in going from Memorial Day for Israeli soldiers to Israel Independence Day, “you shift from grief to celebration.”
That’s what many party-goers, like 21-year-old Aaron Bortz from Woodmere, did.
“There’s definitely mixed feelings,” said Bortz. “Israel is 65 and we are very happy but of course we are sad for what happened today in Boston. I wasn’t worried about coming here because you have ex-Israeli soldiers working security so it’s very safe.”
Lina Berenbein came out with several of her friends to celebrate Israel’s Independence. Originally from Uzbekistan, and now from Manhattan, she said she felt safe and reflected on the day’s events.
“It made me very sad to hear that something could happen again,” she said of the terror attack. “I believe that people should just be there for each other to help whenever needed.”
After waving an Israeli flag, Asaf Palgi, who is from Haifa, said the day’s events were naturally on his mind.
“It was definitely disconcerting and it’s on all of our minds,” said Palgi, who lives in Manhattan. “We still celebrate but we are thinking about them and the attacks and we hope there is no more of it.”
Michael Miller, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, said the attack at the marathon came “at a time when we least expected it.”
As threats to Israel still loom on the minds of many, Miller, who recently returned from a trip to Israel, said he was hopeful
“We cannot make the enemies of the Jewish people disappear,” Miller said. “But what we can do is be united and stand firm against whatever challenges arise. When you see all of the young people that came here tonight, I am optimistic that that despite any threats or saber-rattling, the will of the people will help us overcome.”