The Israeli flag should be flown freely at Bar-Ilan dorms - opinion

Bar-Ilan University students received an email prohibiting the display of any flag in the dorms, including the Israeli flag.

 A FLAG MARCH takes place on the campus of Bar-Ilan University in support of displaying the Israeli flag. (photo credit: IM TIRTZU)
A FLAG MARCH takes place on the campus of Bar-Ilan University in support of displaying the Israeli flag.
(photo credit: IM TIRTZU)

Bar-Ilan University tweeted last month that, contrary to notifications received by students at the end of February, Israeli flags can be put up anywhere on campus, including at the student dormitories.

Why was this even an issue?

Journalist Amir Ettinger wrote that students had received an email from the dormitory management that prohibited them from hanging Israeli flags in the dorms. More precisely, they were prohibited from hanging any flag on the outside of the buildings, with the added clarification: “including the Israeli flag.”

Bar-Ilan University administration explained that the request was from the dormitory management, which is separate from the campus management, and, of course, the Israeli flag flies everywhere else on campus.

In fact, there is a law stipulating that all public buildings must fly the flag, and therefore, flags on campus are not an extraordinary feature.

Aerial view of Bar-Ilan University (credit: BAR-ILAN UNIVERSITY/CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)/VIA WIKIMEDIA)Aerial view of Bar-Ilan University (credit: BAR-ILAN UNIVERSITY/CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)/VIA WIKIMEDIA)

The dorm anti-flag rule was devised by the Electra Group, which developed and manages the new dormitory project, of which the university is rightly proud. In a separate tweet, Ettinger shared Electra’s response to his bringing the email to the attention of the public. Their stated rationale behind this move is amazing/shocking/shameful (pick whichever word best suits your understanding of the situation):

“These are international dorms where students from different communities and countries live. Our directive that pertains to all flags and symbols is only valid for the dorm area, to protect the delicate social fabric in which the students live.”

Even the Bar-Ilan administration seemed unperturbed by this and commented to Ettinger that it was a result of lessons learned from the hostilities last May – Operation Guardian of the Walls – and in anticipation of the upcoming Ramadan holiday month, known for outbreaks of violence against Israelis.

The best response to this was by Twitter account Din Din, who wrote:

“There is no delicate fabric. It is an Israeli campus at an Israeli university. Whoever is too delicate can go study in delicate countries such as Jordan Palestinian Authority Syria Lebanon. This is Israel!! The Electra Group should have put up a large Israeli flag at the center of the dormitories.”

In fact, as mentioned above, it is possible that, by law, there should be a flag prominently displayed at the dorm. After the flag-prohibiting email was reported by Ettinger, student activists from the Im Tirtzu group organized a demonstration on campus and distributed hundreds of flags in the dorms.

Following the outcry, Bar-Ilan University issued a statement assuring students that there is no prohibition against hanging Israeli flags from their windows, and that Electra issued that mail without the prior knowledge of the university administration.

Shai Rosengarten, Im Tirtzu’s national campus coordinator, welcomed the university’s announcement, saying:

“This is an important victory for Zionism, and we are glad that Bar-Ilan University clarified the issue. Anyone who views the Israeli flag as a provocation does not understand the essence of our existence here.”

However, one could say, rather, that it is an important indication of the failure of Zionism for Electra to have thought that students at an Israeli campus need to worry that their flag would be like a red cape in the face of an angry bull.

The university administration should have expressed contrition for the fact that it did not immediately condemn the flag prohibition on the part of a body acting in such an important position on campus. For the foreign students here, this was a horrific display of Jewish guilt/shame/lack of pride.

Rather than hiding our flag out of sight for fear that it might incite some to violence, we should be unabashedly amazed that we can fly the Magen David high up over our heads, proclaiming to the world that we have come home again, and if that proves to be an incitement to violence, we will stand up to that, as we did in 1948 as we brought our fledgling nation into the status of modern statehood.

The writer is a retired family and trauma therapist. In Israel for over 45 years, she is currently exploring mutual interactions between politics and Israeli society.