Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin blasted a State committee headed by Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov on Thursday for failing to include Arab individuals among those picked to light a torch during this year's traditional Independence Day ceremony.
"There are groups within Israel which have interlaced their fates and lives with the Israeli society, and are full partners in the Zionist undertaking and the protection of the state's existence," Rivlin said. "It's unacceptable that a national ceremony marking our independence does not express this fact. This is not a symbolic issue, but a reality that we cannot deny."
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He urged the ceremony's organizing committee to add a member of a minority group to the list of torch-lighters.
"The topic of this year's ceremony – 'water as a source of life' – isn't just a Jewish issue, but applies to each group within the Israeli society – the Druze, Arabs, Bedouins and everyone who shares the State of Israel with us."
Labor Faction Chairman Isaac Herzog blamed the mishap on the government.
"This is yet another example of the government's failing conduct," he said. "It's unacceptable that no member of a minority was chosen to be among the torch lighters. Israeli society includes a wide array of ethnicities and religions, and all of them should be represented. I call on the prime minister to right the wrong and add, alongside the worthy individuals who have been picked, members of minorities as well, who are an inseparable part of the state."
'Minorities spilled blood to build country'
"When it's convenient, the government presents minorities as full partners in everything that touches upon the life in Israel," he said. "It's unfortunate that the state… shuts its eyes and excludes members of other religions who have spilled their blood to build the country. The torch-lighting ceremony doesn't belong solely to the Jewish citizens, and there are enough minority members who are worthy of taking part in the event."
All of the individuals who were included in this year's list have something to do with water, including Ruvik Danilovich, the mayor of Beersheba – a city called after a well dug by Abraham, the biblical forefather. The ceremony is to take place on April 25 on Jerusalem's Mount Herzl.
Also among the honorees are hydrotherapist Esther Abraham, engineer Moshe Cohen, teen scientist and high school senior Maya Brown, future Navy cadet and high school senior Lior Lefber, teacher Ori Moran and doctoral candidate Orit Skutelsky.
The list also includes Mekorot Board Chairman Alex Wiznitzer, practical hydrology expert Herzel Naor, irrigation pioneer Shlomo Zwaifler, Professor Emeritus Menahem Rebhun, National Center for Mariculture Director Dr. Hanna Rosenfeld and water systems expert Giora Shaham.
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