One quaint New York experience: This Sunday, we rendezvous'd with an old friend of our at my mum-in-law's apartment and cast about for ways to kill an hour or two. We decided to forego the Maurice Sendak exhibit at the Jewish museum (weekend crowds) and instead just take the girls to a nearby playground. Well, turns out Sunday was the big day of the Salute to Israel parade a trifle downtown; people had been filtering past the building with lawn chairs and coolers all morning.
The patch of the park we needed to cross to get to the playground, directly opposite Mt. Sinai hospital, was a sea of people by the time we got there. There was a bandstand, on which a group was playing something that sounded vaguely like a cross between Hasidic New Wave and Counting Crows (that would be I guess emo-fusion-punk-klezmer), and before them was a crowd with an admittedly rather restrained mosh pit; more notable was the presence, on the fringes of the crowd, of several circles of modestly dressed teenage girls dancing the hora vigorously.
Yes, it was the Israel Day Concert, this year as I understand it sponsored by groups who oppose the Sharon-directed pullout of Israeli settlers from Gaza. This ought to have been clear to me -- how else to explain all those orange t-shirts? (No, Virginia, these aren't Ulster loyalists: orange is the color chosen by settlement supporters to represent their orange groves.) It became real clear real fast when we started getting bombarded by leaflets and petitions, all opposing the pullout, all supporting the settlers. (No Baptist preachers in sight, though, surprisingly enough.)
What was odd to me was the fact that all of this political activity -- and let's be frank about it, political activity that one could only call right-wing -- was accompanied by an atmosphere of Woodstock-like festival abandon: scruffy young people, hippies with kippahs, barefoot children, etc. On the way back from the playground, back on Fifth Avenue, we passed a crowded island of cordoned-off counterprotestors: ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students, by the look of them -- black suits, big hats, etc. -- carrying signs with slogans like "TORAH SAYS ISRAEL IS NOT A JEWISH STATE" and "SETTLEMENT IS NOT A MITZVAH." Go figure; I love New York.
*Fave t-shirt of the rally: I (HEART) EY (Eretz Yisroel).