The political Left in Israel usually upholds the freedom of Israeli Arabs to express discomfort towards the Jewish State, even to the extent of exonerating them for joining our enemies’ aggression or for voicing the Nakba fabrication, namely the outright delegitimization of our society.
During Independence Day, an Arab family in Rakefet rejected the Israeli flag, and an editorial in the newspaper Haaretz suggested replacing our flag with one with which “all citizens can identify." This is, of course, an impossible goal.
When two months ago, Judge Salim Joubran publicly refused to sing the national anthem Hatikvah, it was not only the Left who defended him but also Supreme Court Judge Eliakim Rubinstein. The newspaper Makor Rishon ironically complained that Joubran hadn’t donned tefillin (phylacteries) .
It is neither amusing nor reasonable that Joubran fails to identify with the state he represents, and in regards to Rubinstein, whoever is willing to exonerate non-Jews from singing Hatikvah and saluting the flag probably also misses the point.
Whether the words of Hatikvah or the Star of David speak to the heart of a citizen in a particular moment is utterly irrelevant.
Britons are expected to sing “God Save the Queen” even if they are agnostic or dislike Elizabeth II. The Dutch don’t shun their anthem because they don’t feel they are William of Orange, and the Poles sing even if uninspired by “Napoleon’s example.”
Symbols are symbols. They represent the values of a country. A judge should know it well because the law in every country requests reverence to national symbols, and he should set an example of unreserved law abidance.
Would it be appropriate for Jews in Scandinavian countries not to salute their flag because of a Christian symbol on it? Or that Muslims from Colombia and Panama reject their anthems because these mention the cross?
If a national hymn has to reflect the feeling of an individual at a particular situation, Portugual, whose national anthem includes the lyrics "heroes of the sea," and "to arms, to arms, on land and sea," would have to mind those who are seasick . Most anthems are un-singable by atheists and pacifists.
The issue is not lyrics. When these become an anthem of a state, they are mandatory for any loyal citizen. Israel doesn’t have to be the only country whose anthem and flag suit the mood of every citizen.
The Irish are not requested to feel like soldiers, who are the focus of the country's anthem, nor must the Japanese feel the need to “reign for 8,000 generations until the pebbles grow into boulders.” An anthem reflects collective aspirations at a specific historic moment; the following generations perpetuate it with deference.
Hatikvah’s verses are suitable for anyone who can recognize the importance of a reborn Jewish State. It praises freedom and hope, contrasting many other anthems that extol victory and grandeur, and others with a religious content such as the Emirates’ “whose religion is Islam and guide is the Qur'an.”
The French anthem speaks of “the roar of those ferocious soldiers coming to cut the throats of your sons and women… To arms, citizens, that an impure blood waters our furrows.” The Mexican Song proclaims “War, war! Let the national banners be soaked in waves of blood.” These anthems are sung because they were not tailor-made for each individual.
There is no reason that a well-intentioned Arab citizen of the Jewish State would disrespect either our anthem or flag, unless he is against “the soul of a Jew that yearns for freedom in our land.” Not to mention that this rebuilt land has granted its Arabs citizens more civil freedoms than any single Arab country. These include the freedom of being appointed a judge in the Supreme Court while not accepting its symbols.
Joubran is a Christian. Had he been Jordanian, would he have objected to the Royal Anthem about a “King of Arabs from the best prophet”? Only in free Israel can he opt not to join his fellow citizens when it comes to symbols.
If Arabs cannot identify with Hatikvah and the flag, why can they identify with the menorah in our coat of arms and with the very name of our state? Does Judge Joubran have the right to avoid them as well?
And why focus only on the Jewish State? If this is the way, it then follows that in non-denominational states crosses should be removed from public places. Christmas kings’ speeches and holidays should be revoked, and in Muslim countries symbols that are inappropriate for non-Muslims should be removed from their flags.
Hatikvah is a proper symbol of our people returning to our land. With Shmuel Cohen's creativity, the piece blends music inspired by the Moldava of Bedrich Smetana with a Romanian folk melody. It was written in 1878 by a passionate poet who was secretary to a Christian Zionist in this land.
It became the song of several generations of Jews who took their future in their hard-working hands after unparalleled suffering. Unlike many others, the song was not specifically composed as an anthem; rather it was the spontaneous creation of our unique historical experience.
Since the 1880’s, when sung by the courageous pioneers in Rishon Le’Zion, and then proclaimed by the First Zionist Congressmen, it inspired the Jews in their dreams of rebirth and dignity. It goes against no one. It commends liberty, which can be enjoyed by anyone who wants to live in peace with the state for which the Jews have yearned for centuries. This hope should not be questioned.
The writer is the author of 14 books on Jews and modernity, and has lectured in more than fifty countries on Jews, Jewish Civilization and Israel. He ran the Four-Year Program at the Hebrew University and was head of the Jerusalem Institute for Youth Leaders.