The Education Ministry has declared that it will not pay for its part in the event due to the organizers' decision not to play the Israeli anthem, "Hatikva," contrary to a previous agreement.
The celebrated Catalan soccer team's visit to Israel and Bethlehem, during which the players met with youth from Israel and the Palestinian Authority, was organized by the staff of the Peres Center for Peace in coordination with President Shimon Peres' office.
During the preparations, the Education Ministry was asked to fund the Israeli part of the event. Education Minister Shai Piron gave his consent, under the condition that "Hatikva" would be played before the team began its training.
The organizers agreed, singer David D'Or was all prepared to sing both "Hatikva" and the Catalan anthem, when a surprising announcement was made: "There is no need to sing the Israeli anthem."
While the Palestinian anthem was played at the Palestinian stadium during the team's visit, the thousands of Israeli students who arrived to watch Barca players in Bloomfield got to hear the Catalan anthem only. Why? That depends on who you ask.
According to the Presidential Residence's staff, during a meeting held at stadium last Friday, which was attended by dozens of representatives from the different ministries, they were informed that if the Israeli anthem would be played, the Spanish, Catalan and Palestinian anthems would have to be played too.
Minister Piron at Bloomfield Stadium (Photo: Reuven Schwartz)
"In conversations with the production, with the team and with the Foreign Ministry, we were told it would create an unpleasant situation," a senior source in the President's Residence said Tuesday, claiming that the need to play four anthems would have prolonged the ceremonies.
The source added that the President's Residence had to "abide by protocol," although it is unclear whether that protocol has to be applied to a happening which is not a state event. Eventually it was decided to play the Catalan anthem only.
Senior Education Ministry officials were outraged by the decision, and demanded that Minister Piron refuse to transfer the payment.
"If someone's feelings are hurt by hearing the Israeli anthem, he should not come to Israel at all," one of the officials told Yedioth Ahronoth. "This is a case of first-class chutzpah, coming to the heart of Tel Aviv and then demanding that we don't play our anthem.
"It's an even greater chutzpah on the part of the organizers and the staff of the Peres Center, who gave in and agreed to it. It's a scandal which would not be ignored in any normal country."
David D'Or. Prepared to sing anthem (Photo: Reuven Schwartz)
The official added that "if someone wants to hold such events and pay for them, he is welcome to do so from his own pocket. We promised to transfer public funds, but we won't agree to pay for such an event which basically offends the public.
"Events held at the President's Residence may have to abide by rules of ceremony, but these rules do not apply to the Bloomfield grass. They can settle for donations from abroad."
The President's Residence and the Peres Center for Peace rejected the claims. FC Barcelona's representatives in Israel were unavailable for comment.
Telem Yahav contributed to this report