The Education Ministry’s Torah Culture Department recently distributed a pamphlet stating that Israel’s August 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip “accomplished nothing from a security standpoint, rather the opposite.”
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The booklet, aimed at teachers in continuing education workshops, adds that many of those who led the unilateral disengagement from Gaza – which included the withdrawal of Israel Defense Forces troops and evacuation of residents from Israeli settlements – “paid a heavy price for it,” notably then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. This is an apparent reference to the belief by some right wingers that many of those involved in the decision were cursed for their actions. Sharon suffered a stroke a short time later and died in January 2014 after eight years in a coma.
The Torah Culture Department is responsible for disseminating traditional Jewish culture to audiences that extend beyond the public schools, including people who are not necessarily religious themselves. This year, the Jewish culture education budget is 37.6 million shekels ($10.5 million), the highest it’s been in five years. According to the division’s website, the scope of its educational effort “runs the gamut from Bible and Talmud through music, theater and cinema.”
The publication in question, which is part of a monthly series, is labeled “a booklet providing assistance in instruction to teachers and counselors,” and includes suggested lesson plans, games and other activities.
“Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who had been known as a fervent support of settlement in all parts of the Land of Israel, suddenly changed his diplomatic-military outlook and announced a unilateral withdrawal without negotiations or a quid pro quo,” the booklet states, with regard to the disengagement. “His real motives were not clear.
“The evacuation went quickly and easily from the standpoint of the IDF,” the text continues, “while good people who were devoted to the country were stripped of everything they had accomplished by the sweat of their brows over a generation and left with nothing.”
Prior booklets in the series have also addressed the issue of the disengagement, which, in addition to the withdrawal from Gaza, also included the evacuation of four settlements in the West Bank.
One booklet notes that Israeli forces withdrew from Gaza on the 8th of the Hebrew month of Elul. And in the evening, the booklet states, in reference to residents of Gaza, “our bitter enemies celebrated by burning and destroying the religious institutions and synagogues of Israeli communities. The anniversary [based on the Hebrew calendar] is designated as a day of prayer, study and soul-searching.”
The same booklet also criticizes modern-day equivalents of idol worship – an apparent reference to certain accoutrements of modern life.
On the subject of Jerusalem, the booklet says the city is endowed with “a magic and amazing power” to bring about a “social and emotional connection” among the Jewish people as a “singular, united and special people.” The Jews are described as a “wonderful, moral people of values, whose qualities include mutual responsibility” and concern that are “the source of genuine Jewish emotion and conscience.”
Another booklet dealt in part with the 2001 murder of right-wing Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi and the 1995 murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, although only about 40 words were devoted to Rabin, while some 200 related to Ze’evi.
The Education Ministry did not respond to questions for this report.