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Thousands celebrate Israel with parade, festivities

Fifth Avenue turned into a river of blue and white Sunday as thousands of people marched through midtown to show their support for Israel.

People march in the Celebrate Israel parade on

People march in the Celebrate Israel parade on Fifth Avenue, Manhattan on Sunday. The parade celebrates Israel's diversity and the nation state's founding. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Fifth Avenue turned into a river of blue and white Sunday as thousands of people marched through midtown to show their support for Israel in the annual Celebrate Israel Parade.

Large crowds lined the parade route as marching bands and floats moved north from East 57th Street to East 74th Street. Many in the crowd waved Israeli flags and wore T-shirts expressing pride in their Jewish culture and heritage.

“It’s hard to believe that they close a main street in the biggest city in the U.S. to celebrate,” Leonard Gozenpud, an immigrant from Belarus who lives in Valley Stream, said as he watched marchers pass 72nd Street.

Elected officials, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, marched to support Israel and New York’s Jewish community. Cuomo said anti-Semitic attacks have spiked in New York state, and he used the event to denounce hate and bigotry. Cuomo said New York law enforcement agencies will vigorously investigate and prosecute anti-Semitic attacks, which he called “a cancer of the American body politic.”

The governor said he would visit Israel after the legislative session ends later this month to show solidarity with the Jewish state. He called on all politicians, Democrats and Republicans, to condemn neo-Nazis and other hate organizations.

"They are domestic terrorists," said Cuomo, standing across the street from the Trump Tower. "That’s what they are. This is not part of our democracy. They spread hate, they spread violence."

Cuomo said his comments were not directed at Trump, who has been widely criticized for not sufficiently condemning anti-Semitism and white supremacy. "That’s a coincidence," he said of his location.

NYPD officers, some wearing helmets and carrying semi-automatic rifles, lined the route and side streets, watching the parade alongside small children and smiling grandmothers. Police officials said no arrests or incidents had taken place related to Sunday’s parade.

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