David Mandel
Chief Executive Officer, OHEL Children's Home and Family Services

Israel as a Metaphor

Independence Day in many countries is symbolized by a demonstration of its prowess. An orchestration of weaponry, postmodern laser guided killing machinery and boot strutting soldiers in defense of its autocracy. Witness Russia’s May Day Parade, a military display of Iran’s Republican Guard or North Korea’s muscle flex. Eyes are transfixed on how technology controls the people. They lead with their brawn.

Faith in machinery and might.

The Israel Day Parade celebrated along Fifth Av in Manhattan is a contrast in such symbolism. A weaponry of a different kind a much more powerful force. An opportunity for tens of thousands of marchers and ten times a number in onlookers it revels in a show of unison Jewish brethren in New York and its environs with brethren 6000 miles away.

Parade marchers spanned newborns to centurions. Thousands of boys and girls marching in their respective school formations was a celebratory noisy and colorful highlight as were senior citizens from many communities traveling hours to join the parade.

One of the most heartwarming sights were people with disabilities throughout the parade route both as marchers and spectators.

I was part of a group of 150 typical kids and adults marching alongside kids with disabilities representing Camp Kaylie and OHEL.  Children and young adults with various developmental and physical disabilities festooned in bright blue shirts mixing it up with the large crowd dispensing frisbees, baseball caps and T shirts.

A courageous counselor carried a ten year old boy with Down Syndrome on his shoulders the length of the parade.  I saw on this boy’s face sheer delight as he believed these tens of thousands of cheering people had come out only to greet him. That somehow Fifth Av had magically closed its streets for an all-day private party exclusively for him. One can easily revel in such a thought.

Sprinkled and ever-present on many blocks were children and adults with numerous disabilities. Walking slowly or pushed in their wheelchairs, transfixed within their own world or waving lavish smiles their faces shone as bright as the sun. Such was the feeling embraced by the hundreds of people with disabilities this special day. They do not require a display of armor to feel might.

They carry a moniker of special people and indeed yesterday at this parade they felt special.

A parade to celebrate the 65th birthday and birthright of Israel. If the pen is mightier than the sword than a parade that proudly includes its most vulnerable amongst its vocal supporters not only makes a nation proud it greatly strengthens its resolve and sword as well. An army of people with different abilities in love with and in support of the nation of Israel.


About the Author
David Mandel is CEO of Ohel Children's Home and Family Services. For more than 50 years, Ohel has provided a safe haven for those suffering in the community. Ohel cares for more than 17,000 individuals in the New York metropolitan area and across all communities offering a broad range of mental health services including outpatient counseling, trauma, anxiety, eldercare, respite and housing.