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Tel Aviv University Insignia

“No hope,” “no self-respect” and “no appreciation for one’s country” were the messages that Tel Aviv University’s (TAU) Faculty of Humanities’ new Dean (Professor Leo Corry) sent when, disgracefully, he banned Israel’s beautiful national anthem, Hatikva (“the Hope”) from the TAU Humanities school’s 2018 graduation ceremony, to avoid “offending” Arab students.  (See Tel Aviv U: No Hatikva At Graduation Ceremony,” by Gary Willig, Israel Nat’l News, June 11, 2018.)

Students at TAU’s Humanities Faculty aptly said that they were ashamed of TAU’s action; that “This is merely another episode of the university’s continuous and unjust capitulation to the Arab student population“; and that “Hatikvah is the national anthem of both Jewish and Arab citizens living in Israel. . . . Whoever is unhappy about our anthem is welcome to study elsewhere.”  (Id.)


Last year, a similar problem arose with Hebrew University’s Humanities Faculty.  Its dean (Prof. Dror Wahrman) decided not to play Hatikva at their graduation for the same senseless reasons.   Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu correctly noted that the decision not to play Hatikva there was “shameful,” and that “This is the peak of subservience, the opposite of national pride.  We are proud of our country, our flag, our national anthem, and this only reinforces my decision to pass the nation state bill that we are advancing in order to anchor in law the national symbols that are so dear to us.”  (“Hebrew U Under Fire For Refusal To Play National Anthem At Graduation,” by Lidar Gravé-Lazi, Jerusalem Post, May 18, 2017.)

During the Hebrew University incident last year, Education Minister Naftali Bennett appropriately made it clear to Hebrew University President Menahem Ben Sasson that the Hebrew University is a public institution and must respect the country that stands behind it, and that academic freedom does not equal harming the values of the state. Also, during last year’s incident, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein aptly noted: “In a place where the “Hatikva” is canceled – there is no hope and no spirit.”   He and others also called on Hebrew University to reverse its decision during last year’s incident.  Dean Ben Sasson responded to Minister Bennett that he would ensure that the national anthem was played at official Hebrew University ceremonies.  (Id.)

The banning of HaTikvah promotes the fallacious notion that Israel must cast off her Jewish identity. The same notion is never invoked regarding the majority of the world’s democratic nations (as well as its non-democratic nations) that maintain a religious and/or ethnic identity.

As former U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith wrote: “most democracies . . . have laws and practices that specially recognize a particular people’s history, language, culture, religion and group symbols, even though they also have minorities from other groups. . . . Israel was founded as a national home for the Jews, recognized as a nationality and not just a religious group. . .  .  Arabs . . . would exercise national self-determination over time in Syria, Lebanon, Mesopotamia (now Iraq), Arabia and elsewhere. . . . . After World War I, numerous ethnic groups achieved statehood. It was not considered antidemocratic that the Hungarians or Poles, for example, should establish nations to embody and sustain their particular cultures. All democratic countries have minority populations. Such countries do not believe that they have to shed their national ethnic identities in order to respect the civil, property and other basic human rights of their minority citizens.”  (“Can Israel Be Jewish and Democratic?,” by Douglas J. faith, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 25, 2010.)

Indeed, Wikipedia lists 94 nations that incorporate Christian religion into their national anthems[1]; 35 countries that incorporate Islam into their national anthems[2]; and 6 countries (other than Israel) that incorporate other religions into their national anthems.[3]

Some national anthems directly criticize those of another faith, nationality or ethnicity.  For instance, Romania’s national anthem, “Awaken Romanian!” includes the verses:

Wake up, Romanian, from the sleep of death, Into which you have been sunk by the barbaric tyrants. . . . 

Now or never let us give proof to the world, That in these veins a Roman blood still flows,

Didn’t we have enough of the yatagan [Ottoman Turkish knife] of the barbaric crescent [the symbol of Islam]

Whose fatal wounds we still feel today;

Now the knout [Russian whip] is intruding in our ancestral homes,

But the Lord is our witness that we shall not accept it alive.

Awaken thee, Romanian, wake up from deadly slumber

The scourge of inauspicious barbarian tyrannies. . .

Priests, with the Cross before you, as the army is Christian . . . 

Better dead in battle, in full glory

Than be enslaved again in our ancestral homeland.”

Quite a few Islamic countries’ national anthems, and several Christian countries’ national anthems speak of martyrdom.  For instance, Yemen’s national anthem includes the lyrics:

Remember, through my joy, each martyr.

Clothe him with the shining mantles of our festivals.”

Syria’s national anthem includes the lines:

Is there not blackness from every eye, and ink from every martyr’s blood?[Our] spirits are defiant and [our] history is glorious, and our martyrs’ souls are formidable guardians. From us is al-Walīd [Drawn sword of God, a companion of Mohammed], and from us is al-Rashīd [Abbasid Caliph] So why then shall we not lead, why then shall we not rise?

Norway’s national anthem includes the lyrics: “upon the country Olav painted with his blood the cross,” – a reference to King Olaf II of Norway, (995 –1030), whose posthumous sainthood encouraged widespread adoption of Christianity.  Norway’s anthem also includes lines about speaking up against Rome, and “Farmers their axes sharpened, wherever an army advanced.”

South Sudan’s national anthem includes the lines: “Let us stand up in silence and respect,

Saluting our martyrs whose blood, Cemented our national foundation.”

Many national anthems (including many of those celebrating martyrs, etc.) are highly militaristic.  France’s national anthem, La Marseillaise, includes lines such as:

Arise, children of the Fatherland, The day of glory has arrived!

Against us, tyranny’s Bloody standard is raised, (repeat)

Do you hear, in the countryside, The roar of those ferocious soldiers?

They’re coming right into your arms, To cut the throats of your sons, your women!

To arms, citizens, Form your battalions,

Let’s march, let’s march! Let an impure blood, Water our furrows!

What does this horde of slaves, Of traitors and conspiring kings want?

For whom have these vile chains, These irons, been long-prepared? (repeat)

Frenchmen, for us, ah! What outrage, What furious action it must arouse!

It is to us they dare plan, A return to the old slavery!

To arms, citizens. . .

What! Foreign cohorts Would make the law in our homes!

What! These mercenary phalanxes, Would strike down our proud warriors! (repeat)

Great God! By chained hands, Our brows would yield under the yoke!

Vile despots would have themselves become, The masters of our destinies!

To arms, citizens. . .”

By contrast, Israel’s national anthem contains none of the gore, militarism, or criticisms of other ethnicities and faiths that are a mainstay in many other nations’ anthems.

HaTikvah simply and tenderly captures the essence of the millenia of Jewish yearning to live in freedom in Zion and our ancient capital Jerusalem:

As long as the Jewish spirit is yearning deep in the heart,

With eyes turned toward the East, looking toward Zion,

Then our hope – the two-thousand-year-old hope – will not be lost:

To be a free people in our land,

The land of Zion and Jerusalem.”

The original HaTikvah poem, “Tikvatenu” (our hope), was written by Naftali Herz Imber in 1878, before the city of Tel Aviv was established.  The poem referred to Jerusalem as “Ir David,” City of David, for King David, who ruled the ancient Jewish kingdom from Jerusalem from approximately 1010 to 970 B.C.E.

The anthem HaTikvah has also played an important role in Israel’s history:  At the 1903 World Zionist Congress, numerous delegates who opposed a proposal to relocate the Jewish State in Uganda walked out, while fervently singing Hatikvah.  HaTikvah was sung at World Zionist Congresses from their earliest days, and became the World Zionist Congress’s official anthem in 1933.  The song became the de facto national anthem of Israel in 1948, and the official national anthem of Israel in 2004.

If the Jewish people had not longed to once again become a free people in the Jewish land, there would be no Israel, no Tel Aviv, and no Tel Aviv University.  It is shameful for TAU’s Humanities Faculty to censor Israel’s beautiful, meaningful anthem – which expresses the sentiments to which they owe their very existence.

[1]The listed nations that incorporate Christian religion into the national anthems are: Albania;  Antigua and Barbuda; Austria; the Bahamas; Barbados; Belarus; Belize; Bolivia; Botswana; Burundi; Canada; Chile; Columbia; Côte d’Ivoire; Czech Republic; Denmark; Dominica; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Ecuador; El Salvador; Estonia; Fiji; France; Ghana; Georgia; Grenada; Guatemala; Guyana; Haiti; Honduras; Hungary; Iceland; Italy; Jamaica; Kenya; Kiribati; South Korea; Latvia; Lebanon; Lesotho; Liberia; Liechtenstein; Luxembourg; Madagascar; Malawi; Malta; Marshall Islands; Mauritius; Mexico; Micronesia; Monaco; Nauru; Netherlands  (most of the verses contain a link to religion and the 6th verse is entirely devoted to God) (Christianity); New Zealand; Nigeria; Norway; Palau; Panama; Papua New Guinea; Paraguay; Peru; Rwanda; Romania; Russia; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Samoa; Serbia; Seychelles; Sierra Leone; Slovakia; Slovenia; Solomon Islands; South Africa; South Sudan; Suriname; Swaziland; Sweden; Switzerland; Tanzania; Togo; Tonga; Trinidad and Tobago; Tuvalu; Uganda; Uruguay; United Kingdom; United States; Vanuatu; Vatican City; Venezuela; Zambia; and Zimbabwe.

[2]  The listed countries that incorporate Islam into their national anthems are: Afghanistan; Albania; Azerbaijan; Bahrain; Chad; Comoros; Côte d’Ivoire; Egypt; Gambia; Guyana; the Islamic Republic of Iran; Jordan; Kuwait; Lebanon; Libya; Maldives; Mali; Mauritania; Morocco; Nigeria; Oman; Pakistan; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Somalia; Sudan (We are the Soldiers of God and of our Homeland) (Islam); Syria; Tanzania; Turkey; Tunisia; UAE; Uzbekistan; and Yemen.

[3]  These are: Cambodia (Buddhism); Guyana (Hinduism); Japan (Shintoism/Buddhism); Nepal (Hinduism/Buddhism); South Korea (Buddhism); Sri Lanka (Buddhism/Hinduism).


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