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Daniel Gordis

Israel's President Sings a Different Tune

It's OK for Arabs to skip singing the national anthem.
Sing. Or don't. It's OK either way.

Sing. Or don't. It's OK either way.

Photographer: Gil Cohen Magen/AFP/Getty Images

Reuven Rivlin was largely unknown outside Israel before he assumed the presidency last summer, and was initially considered by many Israelis as an underwhelming choice. He has quickly found a unique and nuanced voice, especially on the topic of Israel’s relationships with Arabs -- both Arab citizens as well as those beyond Israel’s borders with whom the nation is sadly at war.

In October, Rivlin became the first Israeli president to visit Kfar Kassem, where 49 Arabs were killed by the Israel Defense Forces in 1956 when they violated a curfew. The massacre, long acknowledged by the nation as a horror, still haunts Israeli Arabs, but it wasn't until Rivlin that the president attended the annual memorial ceremony.