Tel Aviv University Okays Nakba Day Ceremony, Despite Student Union Opposition

Student Union says students’ feelings could be hurt by commemoration of ‘catastrophe of 1948,’ which will include an alternative version of the Jewish memorial ‘Yizkor’ prayer.

Talila Nesher
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Talila Nesher

Tel Aviv University’s dean of students recently approved a ceremony to commemorate Nakba Day, to take place on campus on Monday, May 14.

Nakba is the Arabic word for catastrophe, and for Israeli Arabs, Nakba day marks the anniversary of the evens of 1948. In January, the High Court of Justice upheld the controversial Nakba Law passed by the Knesset in March, which grants the Finance Minister the authority to reduce the budget of state-funded bodies that openly reject Israel as a Jewish state or mark the state's Independence Day as a day of mourning.

Palestinian man holding key in commemoration of Nakba Day.Credit: Tal Cohen

The ceremony was set to be held next Monday in the plaza adjacent to the “Naftali” social sciences building.

On Wednesday, University security services decided that because of a “possibility of disturbances,” the event will instead be held at “Antine Square,” located near the entrance to the University.

University security services also stated that the students behind the event must provide funding for the salary of at least six University security guards to ensure order at the event.

“Payment must be made to security services up until two days prior to the event. Failure to pay will result in a revocation of permission to hold the event,” read a statement released by University security services.

The notice continued, “Use of a sound system is prohibited; only megaphones will be allowed. No posters, signs, or flags may be hung up in the square.”

Safi Kadaan, a sociology student, and one of the promoters of the ceremony, responded to the notice. “We’re talking about a new idea, a new campus framework in which there will be a ceremony not just for Arab students, but for everyone,” said Kadaan.

Kaddan continued, “We’re talking about a disaster that must be known on a human level. Historical background will be presented at the ceremony, no anthems will be sung, because this a human issue, not a national one.”

According to Noa Levy, a law student and organizer of the Nakba Day ceremony, “The idea of the ceremony is to be concrete recognition of the pain and loss that the government caused people in this land feel. It’s less about the political-national question, and more about recognizing the tragedy that happened here.”

“Every year different political bodies organize events focusing on the Nakba, in an attempt to make it the focal point of relations between Jews and Arabs in the area. What has never been done, and the time has come to do it, is to commemorate the Nakba in an alternative way, accessible to and created for the Israeli public – an event to remember the tragedy and great loss that befell the people who were here before ’48, many of which still live here,” continued Levy.

Levy also commented on the nature of the ceremony to be held. “It won’t deal with issues of blame, instead it will present the tragedy in as personal a way as possible,” said Levy

On the ceremony’s agenda is a reading of a poem by poet Mahmoud Darwish, a moment of silence, as well a reading of an alternative version of the “Yizkor” prayer traditionally read at events commemorating fallen soldiers.

Tel Aviv University’s Student Union released a statement regarding the event. “The Student Union has no connection to the Nakba day events set to take place on campus next week, and opposes the events in their current form. The Student Union requested from University administration to rethink the event in its current form, inasmuch as it could be very harmful toward the feelings of many students on campus. We are currently waiting for an answer from the University, and will determine our next steps depending on the response from the university,” read the statement.

A Student Union representative said that “many complaints were received from students regarding the event, which led to the union’s request to hold the event in a closed auditorium.”

Tel Aviv University has yet to comment on the ceremony.



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