The minister of construction and housing was fuming. No, not because of the collapse of the Heftsiba construction company which left thousands of buyers without apartments. That apparently is less interesting. Minister Ze'ev Boim was angry with the education minister, Yuli Tamir, who has reduced by half the number of young women teaching Judaism and Zionism in the state school network as part of their national service.
Boim said that "handling of the core subjects of Zionism and nationalism should be taken away from the education minister," because Boim, after all, knows a lot about Zionism, whereas Tamir is merely a member of the Labor Party, which is - how unfortunate - "the left."
At the same time as Boim's protests, there was a huge uproar in Judea and Samaria over the minister's decision. Pamphlets printed in the name of "the young women of the Nationalist Jewish Front movement" (founded by Baruch Marzel) stated: "We call on all the girls considering doing sherut leumi (national service) to boycott it."
A boycott is actually a good idea because then the religious girls will have to enlist in regular army service as my daughters do, for example. That way they will serve two full years, without any extra benefits, without a political agenda, without organizations and without party hacks.
This refers to 270 religious girls who with the help of political activists managed to acquire for themselves the rights to Zionism and Judaism in assorted schools, under the supervision of the Union of Centers for Deepening Jewish Identity, a body that functions under the auspices of the National Religious Party (NRP) and the National Union. The man pressuring the government and obtaining substantial funding for them is the former operations officer of Gush Emunim, MK Nissan Slomiansky (NRP-National Union).
The Union of Centers sends the young women to schools in the periphery to teach students what is real Judaism. They tell the students, in a sophisticated way, that a Zionist is one who sanctifies the land, who settles the land of the patriarchs, and who sacrifices himself for the sake of Judea and Samaria. They tell the children, in soft and pleasant words, about an extremist, cruel Judaism that dispossesses and says "it is all mine," and whose guiding light is the conqueror of the Land of Israel, Joshua Bin Nun.
Tamir suggested that these girls help feed disabled children and help new immigrants do their homework. But they refused: They want to teach Judaism and nationalism according to the worldview of Gush Emunim.
This week the government decided to set up a "civil service administration" in the Prime Minister's Office, with the goal of attracting more volunteers to do national service. This is the new social concept that is supposed to overcome the problem of the ultra-Orthodox who do not enlist, the Arabs' sense of alienation and the evasion of all those who just don't want to waste three years in the Israel Defense Forces.
The result will be disastrous. For young people to want to volunteer, they will be offered the same salary as an IDF soldier in the home front, a demobilization grant and cash deposit, as well as tax breaks, subsidized housing loans and tuition grants as if they had actually served in the army - even though they only devoted a few hours a day to light volunteer work for just one year.
It is the height of the theater of the absurd that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is directing. He presents civil service as an achievement, but in practice he is building an evasion track that will increase the rate of IDF dodgers because the moment there is a legitimate track with no personal risks and which provides numerous benefits, why enlist in the army?
The example of religious girls who see service as "a tailor-made program" shows what a large and expanded civil service will look like. How much distortion, how much politics and how much wasted money there will be.
Therefore, so long as the administration is still in its infancy, Tamir must go one step further and instead of cutting the number of "educational assistants" in half, she should completely eliminate this anomaly and remove all of them from inside the schools.
Judaism and Zionism are key subjects that should be taught by the best and most experienced teachers in the education systems, with no political slant to the right or left. After all, it is the height of absurdity that this important subject is today taught by young women who did not serve in the IDF, and basically have only completed high school and have neither an undergraduate degree nor a teacher's certificate. Why should they suddenly become the educators of a generation?
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