Soviet World War Two veterans march in Israel.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
MK Yoav Ben-Tzur removed his bill that would have Victory Day be marked on its Hebrew date – 26 Iyyar – as opposed to its Gregorian date – May 9 – from the Knesset’s agenda on Wednesday, following protestations by immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
Victory Day marks Germany’s capitulation to the Soviet Union in 1945, and was a major holiday in the Soviet Union. In Israel, Victory Day has been a national holiday since 2000. Veterans of World War II mark the day by marching in parades and participating in ceremonies.
(Most Western countries mark the victory over the Nazis on V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day), on May 8, because of time zone differences when the German surrender was signed.) The explanatory portion of Ben-Tzur’s bill, which was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation earlier this week, says: “In a Jewish state, which rose from the ashes, there is great importance in marking Victory Day on the Hebrew date and not the secular date. It is more than a symbolic statement and is an expression of the victory of our spirit.”
MKs who immigrated from the former Soviet Union said that their communities opposed the proposal.
Yisrael Beytenu faction chairman Robert Ilatov explained that “the Jewish connection is clear and understood, but this is a day that veterans, who fought shoulder to shoulder in Europe, mark on the same date around the world.
“To isolate this day from the international pride, friendship and brotherhood of fighters from different countries empties it of all content,” Ilatov added. “The ninth of May is a very symbolic date.”
MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union), whose grandmother was a Soviet Army doctor in WWII, accused Ben-Tzur of trying to “take the veterans’ holiday away from them.
“Instead of taking care of their needs, help them and celebrate with them, Shas lawmakers decided... to harm those who brought the great victory, and to them and to us, the date is symbolic and important,” she said.
Ben-Tzur decided to remove the bill from the agenda in order not to offend WWII veterans.
“The decision to postpone the vote comes from an understanding that there is a large public that may be offended by the current draft of the bill,” he said.
The Shas MK said MK Yoel Razbozov (Yesh Atid) explained the symbolism of the secular date to him.
“I do not and did not mean to hurt the feelings of WWII veterans. The opposite is true. Their courage should be respected and appreciated,” he said. “At the same time, it is important to clarify that, according to the proposal, we should recognize the Hebrew date as a Jewish and democratic state, while remembering the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust.”
Ben-Tzur said he will update the bill so that both the Hebrew and secular dates will be considered Victory Day.
This is not the first time Shas has offended Russian-speaking Israelis’ sensibilities.
In 2013, Shas put out a campaign ad saying the party would protect the integrity of the conversion process, which sparked an uproar.
The ad featured a blonde woman under a marriage canopy with a dark-skinned man, who is surprised to find that she is not Jewish.
The woman says, in a Russian accent, that she will simply dial “*conversion” and become Jewish on the spot.