Hebrew U Under Fire for Not Playing Israeli Anthem at Graduation Ceremony

Report claims Israel's national anthem will not be played to not offend Arab students, prompting politicians to blast university; many institutions do not include singing of anthem at the conclusion of ceremonies

FILE PHOTO: Hebrew University graduation ceremony
FILE PHOTO: Hebrew University graduation ceremony Eyal Warshavsky / BauBau

The Hebrew University came under criticism Thursday morning following a report claiming that Israel's national anthem was not played at the end of a ceremony so as not offend the university's Arab students.

An Army Radio report from Thursday morning said the national anthem was not played during a graduation ceremony at the Humanities Faculty, prompting Netanyahu to respond and call the incident "shameful."

The decision of whether to sing the anthem at academic ceremonies at universities is up to the institution and there are no guidelines by the Council of Higher Education on this matter. Many institutions include the singing of the anthem at the conclusion of ceremonies while others do not.

In an unusual step, Education Minister Naftali Bennett called Hebrew University President Prof. Menachem Ben-Sasson to protest the decision, reportedly by the dean of the humanities faculty, not to play the anthem at the ceremony.

According to Bennett’s bureau “the minister clarified that the anthem must be played at any official ceremony at the university. Moreover, the minister told the university’s president that even on less formal occasions the decision of whether to sing the anthem or not should not be based on considerations of whether it would offend someone’s feelings, since the anthem was one of the symbols of the state, which offends no one.”

The minister added that “the university is a public state institution, not a private one. A public institution must show respect for the state standing behind it. Academic freedom does not include denigrating values held dear by the state,” it said.

The bureau’s statement added that Prof. Ben-Sasson would look into the incident and would ensure that the anthem was played at all official ceremonies.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu followed Bennett in blasting the incident, saying that “the decision by the Faculty of Humanities at the Hebrew University is shameful. It’s the height of groveling, the opposite of national pride. We are proud of our country, our flag and our anthem. This only strengthens my resolve to pass the nation-state law in order to anchor in law our national symbols that are so dear to us."

MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin (Zionist Union) stated that “as a graduate of the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University I call on the president to ensure that the anthem is played. This was a pointless decision – it is unclear how it was reached. This cannot be the solution for respecting Arabs on campus, with all due respect to the importance of building bridges between different sectors in society.”