MKs stand for the national anthem
MKs stand for the national anthemIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Yesh Atid MK Ruth Calderon caused controversy Sunday with a suggestion that Israel solve the problem of Arab MKs’ disinclination to hear the national anthem by changing the anthem. “I was very sorry to hear that the Arab Members of Knesset left before ‘Hatikva’ was sung,” she wrote on her Facebook page.

“Does someone know of a way to alter the words so that they will include all citizens of Israel?” she asked. Calderon then took part in a lengthy debate on the topic, during which she avoided open support for either side.

The words to Hatikva speak of the “Jewish spirit” and the historic Jewish longing to return to the land of Israel. Arab MKs have termed the Jewish-themed anthem “oppressive” and “humiliating.”

Interior Minister Eli Yishai, one of the heads of the Shas faction, expressed horror at Calderon’s proposal.

“I was shocked to hear this morning that there is an idea within Yesh Atid, voiced on the social networks, to leave the word ‘Jew’ out of the anthem Hatikva so that the Arab MKs do not need to leave when the anthem is sung,” Yishai said. “Yes, we have our disagreements with Yesh Atid, but there are things I thought were undisputed – [such as] the State of Israel being a Jewish state.”

“To whoever needs an update: we are a Jewish state!” Yishai added. “Not with a bowed head, but with our head held high!”

“I doubt that Yesh Atid voters hoped their party would strive to change the identity of the state,” he said.

Calderon replied to Yishai’s criticism on her Facebook page. “Friends, Minister Eli Yishai’s interpretation regarding my desire for compromise and civilian cooperation between Jewish and Arab residents of Israel is a cheap political trick, and a desecration of God’s name [chillul Hashem – ed.],” she wrote.

“Nothing I said even hinted at removing the word ‘Jew’ from the national anthem,” she continued. “I do not wish to say more.”