A TORCH burns on Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl, 2017.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev has changed her mind and will now grant a representative of Diaspora Jewry the opportunity to light one of the torches at the state Independence Day ceremony on Mount Herzl.
The minister had been roundly denounced by public figures in Israel for her decision on Monday to not allow a Diaspora representative to light a torch during this year’s ceremony, despite them participating the previous two years – something the minister herself had initiated.
Regev explained on Thursday morning that the inclusion of Diaspora representatives in the last two ceremonies had been because of the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding and the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, and that this year she had thought it correct to return to the previous arrangements without a Diaspora representative.
However, a letter she had received from Jewish leaders in France – in which they told her of the severe antisemitism that has emerged in that country and of how French Jews are continuing to live Jewish lives and wear Jewish symbols in public – “broke my heart” and led her to reverse her decision, she said.
“Despite the tough atmosphere [in France] they are continuing to proudly carry on their Judaism, walk with kippot on their heads, pray in synagogue, and continue to operate kosher stores and restaurants. I am a traditional woman; it touched me,” Regev said.
“When I received several appeals from our sisters and brothers in the Diaspora, and after we have seen the emergence of ugly antisemitism against our people in the Diaspora, I decided that specifically because of the spirit of our people and as a response, a place of honor should be given this year as well to our sisters and brothers in the Diaspora, who go proudly and upright with their Jewish symbols despite the despicable actions of those who want to destroy us,” she said.
On Wednesday, Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog and other Diaspora leaders sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu protesting Regev’s earlier decision, saying that it came “against the backdrop of a very challenging year in the relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jewry,” and that it “sends the wrong message and has the potential to increase alienation from Diaspora Jewry.”
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