Haredi man petitions court against Remembrance Day siren

Elhanan Ostrowitz, found guilty of vandalizing memorial sites last year, calls nationwide siren a ‘classic characteristic of a dictatorship’

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

Elhanan Ostrowitz at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, 2012 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Elhanan Ostrowitz at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, 2012 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

An ultra-Orthodox man petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice to limit the nationwide siren on Remembrance Day so that it sounds only at memorial sites and army bases, calling the siren a “classic characteristic of a dictatorship.”

Elhanan Ostrowitz, who filed the petition, made headlines last year when he was arrested for vandalizing the Yad Vashem and Ammunition Hill memorials with anti-Zionist graffiti. Six months ago he was found guilty of a number of crimes, including trespassing and vandalism.

The siren which sounds for a minute across Israel on Remembrance Day forces people “to stand at collective attention,” in a manner only found in dictatorships, Ostrowitz wrote in his petition. Because of its nature, the siren should only be sounded on army bases and at memorials, so as not to force everyone to hear it, he elaborated.

Ostrowitz said he, “like many of Israel’s citizens,” felt the siren stopped people from freely expressing their opinions and beliefs, and also caused unnecessary panic among the public. The law demanding “all work and traffic be stopped” during the siren is undemocratic, as it hurts the individual’s freedoms of expression, occupation and other basic rights, he claimed.

Most of the people who stand at attention do so “out of fear and against their personal belief,” Ostrowitz argued. Such actions “define dictatorships… [and] Israel is the only place in the Western world, or maybe the entire world, where a siren is sounded in the entire public sphere,” he stated.

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