As Israelis in Ramle joined the rest of the country, standing in memory of fallen IDF soldiers at the opening of Memorial Day commemorations Tuesday night, they heard an atypical sound not usually associated with that solemn moment. Instead of just the sounding of the siren, Ramle residents heard explosions.
They weren't the sounds of bombs or missiles, as some residents thought – but the sound of fireworks being set off by local Arabs, at the exact moment that the sirens were sounding in memory of fallen soldiers.
Two 22-year old Arabs were arrested in the incident. They were released to house arrest. The two told police they were holding a party in their house during the time of the siren sounding. Outraged neighbors called police to complain about the carousing during the siren sounding, which was followed by official prayers and commemoration services in the city, as elsewhere.
An attorney for the pair said that the two hosts did not set off the fireworks themselves, and that the deed had been done by either a guest, or by someone off premises. “My clients are not connected to the fireworks. They respect Memorial Day, and police are merely harassing them,” the attorney said.
This was the second time in a week that Arabs were accused of violating sacred moments in Israel's national life. Jewish students at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and at Haifa University complained over the weekend that Arab students made noise, whistled, shrieked, and laughed all throughout the sounding of the sirens on Yom HaShoa, Holocaust Memorial Day, last Thursday. Army Radio interviewed students from both schools who said that the Arabs talked during the sounding of the sirens, and when they were asked to respect the moment, they began shouting and laughing. The incidents occurred in numerous classrooms and sites on both campuses, the students said.
One Hebrew University student said that he, along with classmates, had gone out into the hallway from their classroom, with all the Jewish students standing at attention with bowed heads. Not only did the Arab students not do so, he said, but “they laughed and shouted in Arabic, and sang songs. Some people tried to quiet them, but they continued. These are not sounds we usually hear at the university. It sounded as if someone planned a provocation,” the student said.
A student at Haifa University told a similar story. “Some of the students went out of class during the siren, while I remained inside with several others. When the sirens sounded the Jewish students stood up while the Arabs talked loudly, joking and laughing. I asked them to be quiet, but they just yelled louder,” she said.
An Arab student at Haifa University who leads the local Hadash (Communist) Party group at the school said that the Arabs were victims of lies. “I am aware of these complaints,” Mohammed Halaila said. “They were designed to incite riots on campus and to hurt the image of the university. These students have an agenda. It is true that some Arab students did not stand up, but there was no laughing and cheering.”
Haifa University said in a statement that “we are not aware of these incidents, and if such incidents did occur we strongly condemn them. The university educates students to have respect for others, and we condemn any attempt to hurt the feelings of others.” Hebrew University responded to the incidents by saying that “we are sorry that there are some students who do not know how to respect the feelings of their fellow students. The university did not receive any official complaints on the matter. If such complaints are received and are found to be correct, the university will take disciplinary steps agains the offenders.”