Arab-Israeli TV anchor Lucy Aharish lights a torch at Israel's Independence Day ceremony on April 23, 2015(YouTube)

Of the 14 Israelis chosen to light the country’s Independence Day torches yesterday, only one delivered part of her speech in Arabic: Lucy Aharish, an Arab Muslim TV anchor on i24news and frequent face on Israeli television. In her brief remarks, which Aharish delivered while visibly holding back tears, she issued a plea for tolerance among all Israeli citizens, “for Sephardim and Ashkenazim, religious and secular, Arabs and Jews.” 

Aharish’s words stood in sharp contrast to those on the far-right and far-left who protested her appearance at the ceremony. Lehava, a right-wing Jewish organization that the Israeli government has moved towards designating a terrorist group, attempted to organize a demonstration against Aharish, but was denied a permit by police. Some on the left, meanwhile, accused Aharish of serving as a fig leaf for an irredeemably racist Israeli state.

Aharish, 33, is no stranger to controversy, and in the past has taken both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide to task. During the last summer’s war, she called out Hamas on air for its abuse of Gaza’s civilian population. Last month, she delivered an emotional condemnation of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s election day rhetoric that warned of Arabs voting “in droves.” Both clips went viral across Israel.

Watch her remarks at the Independence Day ceremony below (click on bottom left to show subtitles, if not already enabled):