Once again, a non-religiously observant Minister of Education “falls” into the trap of outdated images and decides that those who wear kippot are the experts for training the children of Israel in Judaism. Roni Yavin protests and proposes establishing a supervisory committee under the leadership of a non-religiously observant woman to examine the education for values in the public-religious education system.
by Roni Yavin
A new morning, a new Minister of Education, and once again, a new Jewish heritage curriculum. Jewish heritage, paradoxically, turns out to be the most flexible and unstable subject in the public education system. The Shenhar Commission delivered its recommendations on the subject over a decade ago (1994), yet the clause regarding “balanced criteria for the subject of modern education regarding Jewish culture in the framework of the core curriculum,” has been long forgotten.
Once again, a non-religiously observant Minister of Education “falls” into the trap of outdated images, and essentially decides that only a kippah-wearing man is the leading expert for the training of the non-religious children of Israel. The wearers of traditional kippot (and not, heaven forbid, another kind of kippot – Conservative, Reform or Reconstructionist, not to mention enlightened non-religiously observant) are once again made into the pioneers of religion by the state, due to their exclusivity over Jewish heritage and the treasures of Jewish culture. However, many kippah– wearing individuals proved to disappoint, not only in the cultural realm, but have long lost the special ethical tag that had been appropriated to them as the bearers of Jewish ethics, whether upon the hills of the Judaea and Samaria or in the prisons.
The new Minister of Education relied on Prof. Ish-Shalom, who with sweet-talking, takes us backwards with his claim that the problem is “education for the values of the holidays of Chanuka and Succot” for the boorish Israelis, and “national responsibility” will develop as a result of studying the siddur (prayer book) and parashat hashavua (the weekly Torah reading), “and it is this learning that will prevent soldiers from planning their yerida (departure) from living in Israel while they are in commanders’ courses,” as opposed to the ongoing Occupation, for example, which does fatal damage to the foundations of democracy and basic humanity.
The Minister and his “experts” should deal with the questions of social values and ethics, patience and tolerance in Judaism for the ‘other,’ the stranger and the foreigner; pluralism vs. racism in Judaism – with regard to which the worrisome and thunderous silence has emerged, unfortunately, from the Ministry of Education.
At this opportune moment, I will add a proposal: the initiative of the Minister – whose intentions are surely good – opens a suitable opportunity for establishing a parallel, supervisory committee under the leadership of a non-religiously observant personality for examining the character of religious values education in the religious-public schools (a woman could even be at the helm, perhaps from academia). This committee would be able to check what the religious-public education system is focusing on today: is it the Jewish values which are relevant to the future of the State of Israel, or is it explanations for elementary school girls about the issues of prohibition of braiding or unbraiding hair on Shabbat; tearing toilet paper on Shabbat – yes or no; checking the length of a little girl’s sleeve when she enters school; or beyond that: discussion of Arabs and the non-religious being outcast in deference to revulsion. Perhaps we can also propose creating an opportunity to clarify the type of religious nationalism to which the Bnei Akiva Youth Movement has deteriorated, from its prior tolerance. Even if the Minister of Education thinks, by his methods, that instruction in “true” Judaism can only go under an Orthodox kippah and Zionism is hating Arabs and persecuting leftists, if you will, after all, in order to educate, one has to develop and attentiveness and respect and it is preferable to do so, as we know, in pleasant ways without patronization, persecution and defamation.
And about that it is said: what have you brought upon us?
Roni Yavin is the Director General of Beit Midrash Elul, a member of the Israeli network of Batei Midrash.
Originally published in YNet; translation provided by the author.