“Studying Judaism and excelling in it is more important to me than studying math and sciences,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett said on Monday night, adding, “For me, that’s hard to say.”
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Speaking at an event marking the 40th anniversary of the Tali Foundation, which funds Jewish enrichment studies in secular schools, Bennett said, “Even as a high-tech power that exports knowledge and innovations to the world, we must be a spiritual power and export spiritual knowledge to the world,” he said. “This is the next chapter in our Zionist vision. That’s how we’ll return to being a light unto the nations. From Zion shall come forth Torah and the word of God from Jerusalem.”
He added, “What you’re seeking to do here at Tali is to restore the days of everyone to the days of yore, because you know that Judaism belongs to everyone. No sector has a monopoly on Judaism and this creation belongs to the entire Jewish people equally.”
Bennett often speaks of the importance of Jewish studies, but also of the importance of studying math and science. One of his flagship programs as education minister is one to increase the number of high school pupils taking the highest-level math matriculation exam to 18,000, after it had dropped to less than 10,000 in recent years.
In addition to its program to strengthen math studies, the Education Ministry under Bennett is investing heavily in increasing Jewish studies, particularly in the secular school system. To this end the budgets for Jewish identity centers that operate in secular schools have been increased.
Haaretz recently reported that of the 30 million shekels (nearly $8 million) the ministry has allocated for holding Jewish identity activities in secular schools, 90 percent is going to Orthodox organizations, some identified strongly with Bennett’s party, Habayit Hayehudi. The data is based on a report by the Panim organization, a federation of 52 groups promoting a pluralistic Jewish worldview.