An official graduation ceremony of the law school in Haifa University last week was missing a central element: Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem.
The Ma’ariv daily newspaper reported on Friday that Haifa University students were shocked over the fact that the national anthem was not played at the conclusion of Thursday’s graduation ceremony, as is customary in graduation ceremonies of other faculties across the country.
“I, as were many other students who graduated with me, did not believe that the ceremony ended this way,” one shocked student told Ma’ariv. “This is an Israeli academic institution and it cannot be that Hatikvah is not sung at the end of a ceremony. Even when you finish kindergarten you sing Hatikvah.”
Hatikvah is even traditionally played at the start of the first concert of the Israeli Philharmonic each season.
According to the report, a number of students expressed a belief that the reason that the university chose not to sing the national anthem at the end of the ceremony was due to the fact that there are many Arab students studying at Haifa University. However, one of the students who participated in the ceremony said that it is illogical.
“There are many Arabs who graduate from every faculty and that’s fine,” he was quoted by Ma’ariv as saying. “One of the speakers at the beginning of the ceremony noted that Israel is both Jewish and democratic and nobody complained about that statement, so I do not think that singing the anthem would have caused any complaints.”
Haifa University told Ma'ariv in respnse that the university “respects the anthem and its practice is to play it at the end of every ceremony. We are investigating why at the end of the aforementioned ceremony Hatikvah was not played.”
Haifa is Israel’s third largest city and is home to a large population of both Jews and Arabs, many of whom study at Haifa U.
In the past, Haifa University has been forced, due to protests, to cancel invitations for appearances by radical Arabs on its campus. In May, the university announced it would not allow Arab Sheikh Ra’ad Salah to appear at an event on the campus, saying his appearance would “abuse of freedom of speech and disruption of public order on campus.”
Salah, a known inciter who heads the northern wing of the Islamic Movement within Israel, appeared at the university in 2009 and claimed that Israel was trying to undermine the Al Aqsa mosque. “We welcome death” rather than “give up our principles and holy sites,” he proclaimed.
Also recently banned from speaking at the university was Arab MK Hanin Zouabi, a controversial MK who took part in last year’s Gaza flotilla. She was supposed to talk about the Arab “Nakba Day”, the day on which Arabs mourn the fact that they failed to annihilate Israel in 1948, and lost some territory in the process.
In 2009, the Haifa University Student Union distributed a calendar diary containing an advertisement calling readers to know who the “anti-Israeli lecturers” are, in Haifa U. and in other academic institutions throughout Israel.