The Higher Education Ministry helped pay for learning kits that depict settlements that were evacuated in Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip as a collection of “miracles that came to their temporary end at the time of the uprooting.”
The kits, which include board games and flash cards, were distributed last week in more than 50 communities around the country, in elementary schools, community centers and the Garin Torani movement, in which young religious people move as a group to an urban area and operate religious, social and educational activities.
The ministry refused to say, in response to a question from Haaretz, how much money it had allocated for the kits and said the local authorities that ordered the materials were responsible for their content. The ministry also refused to say whether a historian had been asked to evaluate the content.
The distribution of the kits, to mark the Hanukkah holiday, was funded jointly by the ministry’s Jewish Culture Department and dozens of towns, including Givat Shmuel, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Kiryat Gat and Pardes Hannah. The kits were created by Karov Lalev (Close to the Heart), a nonprofit organization whose Hebrew website says it endeavors “to reinforce the sense of unity surrounding the Jewish heritage that we all share.
The English-language site says it “was founded in 2013 as a grassroots movement aimed to overcome the deep rift between the diverse Jewish populations in Israel and to enhance social cohesion by pinpointing the Jewish holidays as common grounds.”
The kits present eight events in the history of the Jewish people and the State of Israel as “miracles.” Gush Katif, the cluster of Gaza Strip settlements evacuated in 2005, is described as “a flourishing and wonderful community” that operated in the shadow of “base terrorists who sought to destroy the Jewish spirit emanating from it.”
The Six-Day War is described as a war in which Israel was victorious thanks to “many miracles, some of them incredible,” at the end of which “the Jewish people repel the enemy forces and Israel expands its territory significantly in Sinai, the Golan Heights, Judea and Samaria.”
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The Jewish Culture department operated under the Education Ministry until about six months ago, when it was assigned to the newly created Higher Education Ministry, under Ze’ev Elkin (Likud).
The department’s brief includes funding Jewish culture events through the local councils, but the definition of “Jewish culture” is very broad. On Hanukkah the department, in cooperation with the local councils, funded hundreds of events, most of them held virtually this year.
An examination by Haaretz last week indicated that about 80% of the performances funded by the department this year involve only male performers. According to critics, the department is biased in favor of Orthodox and right-wing Jews.
The Higher Education Ministry said in response that “The kit is a project of over 50 local councils that chose to connect with Karov Lalev’s Garim Karov project. The Jewish Culture Department of Higher and Continuing Education supports projects of this type in the context of a call for unique projects, which is publicized on listings and on the ministry website. The support covers up to 75 percent of the cost of the project, to a ceiling of 15,000 shekels per local council. The contents of the kits were decided by the local councils participating in the project, and not by the ministry.”
The ministry also said that “the support and the budgets given by the Department for Jewish Culture in the Ministry of Higher and Supplementary Education are given based on transparent and equal criteria which were properly approved. The contents of the events and the choice of artists was decided by the local councils, which are the organization receiving the support and budgeting from the ministry. All the activities are carried out by the local councils and by them alone, and they are responsible for their contacts.”