Livni Slams Religious Hegemony Over Proposed Jewish Identity Agency

Proposed by Habayit Hayehudi, the agency will be part of Religious Services Ministry. Cabinet expected to approve it on Sunday.

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Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnuah) blasted the planned establishment of a so-called Jewish Identity Administration on Thursday, calling it “a political move whose sole purpose is to be a tool for worrisome religious indoctrination.”

The plan, which the cabinet is expected to approve on Sunday, is a pet project of the Habayit Hayehudi party and is mandated by its coalition agreement with the ruling Likud party.

Livni stressed that she didn’t object to creating such an agency in principle, but did object to it being part of the Religious Services Ministry, which Habayit Hayehudi controls. She said it ought to be part of the Education Ministry instead.

“Strengthening Jewish identity is something I see as very important, but only if this is done in the national sense rather than the religious sense,” she explained.

In contrast, the Yesh Atid party’s leadership is backing the plan. In a document sent to all cabinet ministers in advance of Sunday’s meeting, Yesh Atid’s two senior ministers – Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Education Minister Shay Piron – said they have no objection to the agency being part of the Religious Services Ministry, as required by the coalition agreement.

They noted that the cabinet resolution explicitly bars the agency from conducting any activity in institutions under the Education Ministry’s control – schools, youth groups, community centers, etc. – without that ministry’s consent.

The new agency’s goal is to “promote and strengthen Jewish identity among various segments of society, for the sake of increasing Israeli society’s awareness of and identification with the fundamental elements of Jewish identity and the global Jewish heritage.”

Why is such an agency needed? According to the explanatory notes distributed with the cabinet resolution, because “The average Israeli wants to love his homeland, his people and his historic Jewish heritage more, but in practice, there are gaps in knowledge, a lack of familiarity with Jewish history and heritage among the younger generation, so there are difficulties in connecting youth to Zionist, Israeli and Jewish values.”

Naftali Bennett, godfather of the proposed Jewish identity agency.Credit: Emil Salman

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