Arab journalist lights torch at Independence Day ceremony, a...

Arab journalist lights torch at Independence Day ceremony, appeals for tolerance, peace, hope

April 23, 2015

Lucy Aharish, the first Arab Muslim news anchor on Hebrew television, was among the 14 torch lighters in the official ceremony kicking off Israel’s Independence Day celebrations on Wednesday night. In explaining its decision to honor Aharish as a torch lighter, the Ministerial Committee for Symbols and Ceremonies said she “represents and advances social pluralism and positions calling for coexistence in our country.”

Aharish was teary-eyed when she took her turn at the ceremony, saying she was lighting the torch “for all human beings wherever they may be who have not lost hope for peace, and for the children, full of innocence, who live on this Earth.

"For those who were but are no more, who fell victim to baseless hatred by those who have forgotten that we were all born in the image of one God. For Sephardim and Ashkenazim, religious and secular, Arabs and Jews, sons of this motherland that reminds us that we have no other place. For us as Israel, for the honor of mankind, and for the glory of the State of Israel,”

Aharish, the only Arab lighting a torch in the ceremony, also spoke in Arabic, saying: “For our honor as human beings, this is our country and there is no other.”

Her announcement as a torch lighter has raised the hackles of both the far right and far left, with the right saying she is not loyal enough to the state, and the left and Arab communities saying she has sold out to the Israeli establishment.

The choice of Aharish as a torch lighter came under attack from both the far-right and the far-left. The anti-assimilationist organization, Lehava, planned to protest the torch lighting, but then cancelled the protest due to police restrictions. On the left, Aharaish was reproached for "selling out" to the Jewish establishement. Arab MK, Basel Ghattas, accused her of "admiring the oppressor."

While Aharish herself says she would have preferred to be recognized for an achievement rather than he ethnic identity, or “the most sensitive issue in Israeli society,” she saw it as a"great honor" and news of the decision moved her to tears.

Further reading:

The Washington Post"Arab journalist defiantly accepts Israeli honor"
Israel National News "Independence Day Protest against Arab Torch Lighter Cancelled"
Times of Israel "Arab MK accuses torch-lighter Aharish of ‘admiring the oppressor’"

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