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Throngs Come Out to Support Israel
"For all the torment and pain that Israel is going through, it's good to hear the joyful noise," said Christopher Collopy, a 63-year-old who made the trip from Spring City for the Israel Independence Day parade Sunday in Philadelphia.
He was among the hundreds of people who wore or carried blue and white items in honor of Israel's 65th birthday as they walked the Benjamin Franklin Parkway down Race Street to the Pennsylvania Convention Center, undeterred by gray skies and misting rain.
Collopy held an Israeli flag and wore a shirt with the word jihad crossed out and an Uncle Sam-style hat. A Christian who spent 40 years working in a factory, Collopy said he had visited Israel twice and decided to attend the parade, "because this is what I believe in."
There was no one brand of Israel supporter in the parade, which was sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. Members of the Zionist Organization of America, which describes itself as the "only organization that documents and exposes Palestinian Arab violations of the Road Map plan," marched not far from J Street, a left-leaning organization that seeks to redefine "what it means to be pro-Israel in America." (The only thing separating the two groups was a Volkswagen Bus painted to advertise Goldenberg's Peanut Chews.)
Many of the groups in the procession, ranging from summer programs such as Camp Galil to congregations such as Society Hill Synagogue to educational institutions such as Gratz College, sang and performed Israeli and Jewish songs like "Am Yisrael Chai."
The parade also featured an ambulance from Magen David Adom, Israel's national emergency service. Philadelphia police blocked off the route for the parade and were lined up along the side of the street, but security did not feel overly tight, little more than one month after the Boston Marathon bombing.
Inside the Convention Center, the Mummers dressed in their usual bright, shiny costumes and performed songs such as "Hava Nagila" while attendees moved among booths for Jewish organizations and vendors selling jewelry and other items.
Sophie Ritt, a 10th grade student at Gratz College Jewish Community High School, sat with classmates eating falafel in a food court area. She said she had made eight trips to Israel, where relatives live.
"I feel that as a Jewish person, Israel is my homeland," Ritt said. "And it's my desire and my obligation to support it."