Dept at leading Israeli university refuses to play national anthem 

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The Faculty of Humanities at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, refused to play the national anthem, HaTikva, The Hope, at this month’s graduaten ceremony for the second successive year, out of fear of offending Arab students.

A student who inquired as to why the anthem would not be sung was told the decision was made “out of consideration for the other side,” a reference to the Arab community which comprises 20 percent of the population of the State of Israel. The decision was made by Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Prof. Dror Wahrman.

A broad spectrum of politicians and religious leaders has condemned the university’s decision. Prime Minister Netanyahu called the decision “shameful.”

“This is the peak of subservience, the opposite of national pride,” he said. “We are proud of our country, our flag, our national anthem, and this only reinforces my decision to pass the nation state bill that we are advancing in order to anchor in law the national symbols that are so dear to us.”

The bill Netanyahu was referring to ensures individual rights for all citizens, but in the context of a state with Jewish identity.

Earlier this month KNI reported on recent research into the views of Arab and Jewish Israelis towards the state they live in, which shows that the vast majority of Arabs are content, even more so than their Jewish counterparts, and a small majority of Israeli Arabs are satisfied even with their national identity.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman called the faculty’s decision “odd” and said the he was “shocked” at the behavior of his former university. His predecessor Moshe Ya’alon said in a Tweet, “Cancelling your identity in order not to hurt others’ feelings is akin to national suicide. I hope the university administration will come to its senses.”

In response to the criticism Menachem Ben-Sasson, president of the university, has now agreed that such an occurrence will not be repeated at any university official ceremony. He spoke with Education Minister Naftali Bennett who pointed out that singing the national anthem in no way constitutes “harm” and that the Humanities Department should not use its “academic freedom” to undermine the state and that the Hebrew University as a public institution of the state must show “respect.”

According to the 2016 QS World University Rankings by Subject, seven Israeli universities featured in the top 100, including Hebrew University. The ranking system is arguably the most comprehensive in the world, comparing 42 areas of study.

HaTikva epitomizes the hopes of the Jewish people for freedom in a national home amid millennia of intense struggle and wondering. Written by Naftali Herz Imber, and first published either in 1876 or 1877, the anthem was sung as far back as the 18th Zionist Congress of 1933.

Translation of the HaTikva:

 As long as in the heart within,
The Jewish soul yearns,
And toward the eastern edges, onward,
An eye gazes toward Zion.

Our hope is not yet lost,
The hope that is two-thousand years old,
To be a free nation in our land,
The Land of Zion, Jerusalem.

Hatikva text in Hebrew: 

כֹּל עוֹד בַּלֵּבָב פְּנִימָה
נֶפֶשׁ יְהוּדִי הוֹמִיָּה,
וּלְפַאֲתֵי מִזְרָח, קָדִימָה,
עַיִן לְצִיּוֹן צוֹפִיָּה.

עוֹד לֹא אָבְדָה תִּקְוָתֵנוּ,
הַתִּקְוָה בַּת שְׁנוֹת אַלְפַּיִם,
לִהְיוֹת עַם חָפְשִׁי בְּאַרְצֵנוּ,
אֶרֶץ צִיּוֹן וִירוּשָׁלַיִם.

Transliteration of Hatikva text:

Kol od balevav penimah,
Nefesh yehudi homiyah,
Ulefa-atei mizrach, kadimah,
Ayin letziyon tsofiyah.

Od lo avdah tikvateinu
Hatikva bat shnot alpayim,
Lihyot am chofshi be-artzeinu,
Eretz tzion, virushalayim.