Everyone loves a parade. Or do they? Plans for Israel’s 70th anniversary have been stymied for months, specifically over how to fund the celebrations that include a proposal to revive the Israel Defense Forces parade after 40 years.
For 25 years, from 1948 onwards, the IDF parade was an integral part of the Israel Independence Day celebrations and a source of national pride. During those years, the Israeli public flocked to Jerusalem to stand in the blazing sun, watch, wave and cheer the IDF units as they marched by. Due to budgetary reasons, the last IDF parade took place in 1973.
Acting on a suggestion made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the 2016 Independence Day celebrations, that Israel bring back the military parade, Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev lobbied for funding. The NIS 100 million budget finalized this month will come from taxpayers’ money and the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund. Neither the IDF nor the Ministry of Defense are interested in paying for it.
“The march won’t march,” David Sela, chairman of the Council for Promoting Israeli Heritage and editor of the Nostalgia Online website, told IDF Radio/GLZ last week. “The reason that the parade won’t be held for the State’s 70th anniversary celebration is because the public overwhelmingly opposes it.”
He based his statements on a survey conducted via the Nostalgia Online Facebook page, to which 420 people responded and thousands have commented.
In response to the question, “Are you in favor or against holding the IDF parade”, 65.6% of respondents said they were against the parade and 34.4% were in favor. Most of those opposed commented that they felt the money would be better spent on the needy.
Of those who voted in favor of the parade, Sela told GLZ, “there were two main topics. The first was about national pride, raising motivation and morale, and the second was nostalgic longing.”
“To this very day, I hear stories about the beautiful parades that once were” wrote one. Still another wrote, “I’m pining. Please bring back the parade so that our children and grandchildren can be excited and proud about our IDF. Pleeease.”
And of course, this being Facebook, jokes were inescapable: “I’m in favor of the parade on condition that the girl soldiers look like the ones in the photos.”
The survey found that most of the Israeli public would like to see the anniversary celebrated with a major event or exhibition highlighting the State of Israel’s achievements over the past 70 years.
One of many commenters wrote, “If you want a parade, make it a parade of achievement: agriculture, industry, social action. It would be much better to display the things we’ve been able to accomplish over the past 70 years like exhibitions about construction, absorption and immigration, technology in numerous disciplines that are a source of Israeli pride, Nobel Prizes and more.”
Still another wrote, “I am in favor of a parade that would include representatives of the population from different sectors: urban centers, regional councils, labor settlements, industry, sports, song and dance troupes, as well as representatives of the IDF units. A totality of Israeli pride.”
Sela notes that the idea is reminiscent of the 10th anniversary of 1958, when the Israeli government decided on two days of nationwide festivities, from April 22 to 24. In addition to an IDF parade of 5,000 troops and 90 armored vehicles, the 10th anniversary also included a major exhibition of Israeli accomplishments at what is now the Jerusalem International Convention Center.
“It’s important to note that today an event like that couldn’t just be one day but would have to take place over a period of time. And the positive response to the 10th anniversary celebrations in 1958 had an effect for many years afterwards because it was such a significant event. We can only hope that they’ll be able to accomplish an event like that today,” Sela said.