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Thursday, September 20, 2018

I “celebrate Israel” practically every day in one way or another—whether it is reading the news about Israel’s government, its fascinating technological breakthroughs, or even munching on my favorite Kvuzat Yavne green olives. But, once a year, when New York City’s Fifth Avenue turns into a sea of blue and white, there is no greater feeling of pride for an American who loves Israel.

I have been attending the parade for years—since high school at least. Each year, thousands of marchers and dozens of bands, politicians, schools and synagogues walk the streets of Manhattan to show their support for Israel. But this year in particular, for me, the event was more inspiring and touching than in years past.

Coming off the heels of the tragedy in Boston had a lot of people on edge.  I admit that I too was apprehensive about the implications of thousands of Jews gathering in a confined space in NYC to support Israel. But that did not deter me and roughly 35,000 other people who came out to celebrate.  Our carefree children wore smiles on their faces as they marched and waved their flags in the heat of the sun. It was a meaningful experience.

This year in Israel also marked the 19th Knesset elections. History was made as Israel saw the Likud-Beiteinu alliance emerge as the largest faction in the government, forming a coalition with YeshAtid, the new party that won the second largest number of votes with 19 seats.  We saw our first American-born Knesset member in over 30 years as well as the first ever female MK from Ethiopia. Shas, the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party now sits in the opposition for the first time in a decade and is in the throes of a severe leadership crisis. Everything about the new government is different. Much in Israel is changing, and I am hopeful that it will be a good change.

Coincidentally (or not), this year’s parade theme was “Picture Israel,” with marchers carrying paintings, collages, and tapestries to show the diversity of Israel and its people. Israel has always been a melting pot of all types of Jews, but we have also been a divided nation for far too long.  The constant clashes between the right wing and left wing (religiously and politically) have been a barrier stifling the development and flourishing of the Jewish homeland. For the first time, a government agenda has emerged to unify Israel and create an even playing field for all its citizens with shared civic duties and dialogue amongst diverse groups. Israel is a vibrant democratic country and we should be proud of this as Americans thriving in our own land, especially as Israel sits in the middle of oppressive, theocratic regimes.

Marching down Fifth Avenue and seeing Jews from all backgrounds shows beautiful unity. We may live our lives differently but we can unite in support of our homeland. I hope that by respecting and appreciating the diversity of the land on a daily basis,I can continue to inculcate an important love for Israel and Am Yisroel in my own children,and this is surely something to celebrate.

P’nina Seplowitz lives in Bergenfield with her husband and their three children. She is a Jewish community activist and  VP of Sales and Marketing for an online magazine subscription company who has authored two books: Once Upon A Vegetable for children, and White Angel, a Holocaust memoir.  Visit www.PninaSeplowitz.com for more information.

By P’nina Seplowitz