Tel Aviv’s city hall lit up in the colors of the Lebanese flag in solidarity on Wednesday night, following the deadly explosion in Beirut the day before.
“This evening we will light up city hall with the flag of Lebanon. Humanity comes before any conflict, and our heart is with the Lebanese people following the terrible disaster that befell them,” Tel Aviv Mayor Huldai wrote on Twitter.
Many Israelis have expressed horror over the disaster that struck Beirut and sympathy with the Lebanese people, despite past enmity between the countries.
Tel Aviv resident Russel told AFP he was “very proud” to live in the city.
“Innocent people were killed and our hearts go out to them. This has nothing to do with politics. This has nothing to do with borders,” he said.
“This has to do with people to people and Tel Aviv is a city that loves people.”
But not all Israelis supported the city hall’s gesture of solidarity.
“It is possible and necessary to provide humanitarian aid to civilians who were hurt in Lebanon, but waving an enemy flag in the heart of Tel Aviv is moral confusion,” Jerusalem Minister Rafi Peretz wrote on Twitter.
Yair Netanyahu, the son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, tweeted that he was opposed to displaying the colors, falsely claiming that it was illegal.
“This is crazy. Lebanon is officially a terrorist state,” he wrote on Twitter in response to Huldai. “Flying the flag of an enemy state is a criminal offense!!!”
Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked said, “In a proper country, the color orange would be painted this evening on the Tel Aviv City Hall as a reminder of the [August 2005] withdrawal from Gush Katif [the Jewish settlements in Gaza]. Instead, we get the flag of an enemy state.”
Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in August 2005. The color orange was used as a symbol by opponents to the withdrawal.
Tel Aviv has in the past lit up its City Hall with the colors of other countries going through disasters, including the US after a mass shooting in Las Vegas in October 2017, Spain after a deadly attack in Barcelona in August 2017, and twice for Egypt following terror attacks in 2017.
The municipality’s tribute to Egypt’s flag after an attack on Christian Copts in May 2017 was the first time the gesture was made toward an Arab country, although unlike Lebanon, Egypt has a peace accord and ties with Israel.
Israel announced Tuesday night that it had reached out to offer humanitarian help to Lebanon after a massive blast rocked Beirut, killing at least 100 and leaving large parts of the capital in ruins. The disaster has pushed Lebanon, already straining under an unprecedented economic crisis, to the brink, and hospitals have struggled to cope with the thousands of injured.
Aside from humanitarian aid, several Israeli hospitals have offered to help treat Lebanon’s injured. Masaad Barhum, the director of the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, near the Lebanon border, joined three other hospitals that offered help overnight.
Some on the right have expressed opposition to aiding Lebanon, home to the Hezbollah terror group, with which Israel has been locked in conflict for decades. Hezbollah, which is part of the Lebanese government, is sworn to the Jewish state’s destruction.
Bezalel Smotrich, an MK from the right-wing opposition Jewish Home party, wrote on Twitter that Israel should only offer Lebanon help if it is in Israel’s strategic interest. “Morally, we have no obligation or need to extend a helping hand to an outright enemy state,” he wrote.
Israel has fought a number of wars with Lebanon and the countries are officially enemy states. From 1982 to 2000 Israel occupied a swath of southern Lebanon to push out Palestinian groups, and in 2006 fought a devastating war against Hezbollah.
Tensions have been high recently on the Israeli-Lebanese border after Israel said it thwarted an infiltration attempt by up to five Hezbollah gunmen — a claim denied by the terrorist group. Israel has been bracing for an attack from Hezbollah after it accused the Jewish state of killing one of its men in an airstrike in Syria last month.
AFP contributed to this report.