(Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

(Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

By Marissa Newman - May 16, 2018

Originally appeared here in the Times of Israel 

They came from over 40 countries — from Australia to Burundi, China to South Africa, the United States to Germany — to celebrate Israel’s 70th birthday, filling the streets of Jerusalem on Tuesday with a sea of billowing flags, ecstatic chants of “Israel, Israel” and heartfelt, if often bungled, Hebrew lyrics.

At the March of Nations’ starting point in Sacher Park, a pair of beaming Poles proudly sported Star of David crowns, blue-and-white balloons strong-armed into the shape. Across the grassy expanse, an effusive Hasid was on a rock, welcoming the 2,000-odd international marchers to the city. And on the steep incline of Bezalel Street, hugging the capital’s trendy Nachlaot neighborhood, a middle-aged German violinist in a flat cap was serenading an Israeli baby in the arms of a woman in loose-fitting clothing on the sidelines.

Minutes later, the exuberant crowds filed past a barbershop in downtown Jerusalem, where an Israeli woman paused mid-haircut — her grey hair plastered to her face — to snake a smartphone through her cape and snap a photo through the glass. Past Hillel Street, a lanky Spaniard carrying a shofar high-fived an Israeli over his country’s soccer prowess, as several American nuns forged ahead behind a gray-bearded man with an eye patch and binoculars.

Nearby, a handful of IDF soldiers were showered with attention by the marchers.

But while visually reminiscent of the annual international pro-Israel march on the Sukkot festival, Tuesday’s March of the Nations had an under-the-radar twist missed by most casual Israeli observers.

“My grandfather went to Auschwitz and helped build the concentration camp. He was responsible for putting 16 kilometers of barbed wire into place and he also helped build the gas chambers,” Bärbel Pfeiffer, flanked by her husband and children, told the crowd in German before the march.

“And we are standing here today as a whole family to say that something like this must never happen again. And Israel, we stand by your side and we love you, Israel, and we will be with you.” Read More