Many secular Israelis associate siren “refuseniks” with elements in the hareidi Jewish community, but there are far more university students who refuse to stand in honor of the sirens sounded on Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day, which begins Sunday night, and on Memorial Day for the IDF soldiers killed in Israel's wars, a week later. So say activists in the Im Tirzu organization, who sent a pointed letter Sunday to the heads of Israel's universities asking them to enforce the practice of standing in contemplation while the sirens sounded, a practice that has become widely ignored on some campuses.
The culprits: Arab students who either believe that they are exempt from standing, or who purposely make noise and desecrate the sacred moment, offending the Jewish students who value the ceremony.
“We cannot accept that some students will act in an offensive and hurtful manner while the sirens are sounding,” the letter by activists Matan Peleg and Amit Barak, says. “Among the provocations we have witnessed during the siren sounding is loud music being played, phone calls with much laughter being made, shouting of political slogans, and more. Clearly, the purpose of these actions is to hurt the feelings of their fellow students who honor these days, and wish to express their feelings for loved ones who are no longer with us.
“We demand that academic institutions, as important state-affiliated institutions, do everything possible to ensure that the dignity of the siren ceremony is maintained, and prevent the hurting of the feelings of the majority of students,” the letter continued. “We call upon universities to take a clear stand on this matter and to proclaim the standards of behavior expected of students. This will ensure that all students, including new ones, are aware of the importance of these days, and will behave properly.
“We also expect that disciplinary actions will be taken in the event that students do not follow the required standards and act in a vocally violent manner in order to create a provocation,” the letter added.