Hebrew University
Hebrew University Israel news photo: Flash 90

Last Thursday, Jewish students and parents attending the Hebrew University graduation ceremony for students who earned their BA degrees in Social Sciences were shocked when Israeli Arab students refused to sing Israel's national anthem.

As is customary in such ceremonies, the ceremony was concluded by the singing of Israel's national anthem, Hatikva. However, Arutz Sheva learned that a considerable group of Arab graduates who are citizens of Israel chose to remain seated and silent when Hatikva was sung.

Other graduates and their families say that the Arab students refusal was jarring and inappropriate.

They obviously do not know that this has often been the case for years and that there have been occasions when Arab students rose and turned their backs to the stage when the anthem was sung.

One father of an excited new graduate told Arutz Sheva "This is not a single event, but a symptom of a much larger phenomenon in which Israeli Arabs refuse to recognize the Jewish character of the state.

"We lie to ourselves as a people: they enjoy everything that Israel has to offer, but at the moment of truth they do not identify with the country. If they are unable to sing the anthem, at least stand and show respect."

Last month, Supreme Court Justice Salim Jubran chose not to sing the national anthem at the end of the inaugural ceremony of President of the Supreme Court Asher Grunis. He did, however, stand - facing the flag - to show his respect.

Jubran's decision infuriated nationalist lawmakers who charged his "insolence" was a "degradation to the Jewish state."

Supreme Court Justice Eliyakim Rubenstein defended Jubran, saying he believed it would be wrong "to require Arab citizens to sing words that do not speak to their hearts and do not reflect their heritage. Common sense anywhere tells you this."

Hatikva expresses the Jewish longing to return and be a free people in their homeland, Zion and Jerusalem, but does not in any way negate the presence of non-Jews in Israel.

Leftists have called for making the anthem's words more universal. Rubinstein said he did not support altering the text of Hatikva, saying: "Whoever joins us in singing it, bless him, but it must remain a personal decision."

However, Druze lawmaker and Deputy Knesset speaker Ayoub Kara (Likud) has said he believes Israel's non-Jewish citizens should sing Hatikva and recognize the Jewish character of the state.

"Without Jewish rule there would be no democracy in Israel," Kara said.