Israel's New Education Minister Warns Country Is Becoming Too Secular

Rafi Peretz of Habayit Hayehudi denies religious coercion permeates many areas of life in Israel, says Israelis have nothing to fear as 'he lives according to the Torah'

Rafi Peretz after being appointed education minister, July 17, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

Israel's new education minister responded to the claim that Israeli society is suffering from religious coercion, claiming instead that "this is almost fiction. Israeli society is not becoming more religious. If anything, it is going through the process of becoming more secular."

Rafi Peretz,who was appointed as interim education minister by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week, made the remarks as part of an interview with Israeli daily Yisrael Hayom published Wednesday.

As an example to support his point, Peretz discussed recent Independence Day celebrations. "When in Ramat Gan on Independence Day there are several stages for the general public and only one stage for religious Zionists, that's secularization not increasing religiosity. They don't show the proper respect," he said.

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The Habayit Hayehudi chairman clarified that it is not his intention to "force anything on anyone. That needs to be clear… we're just giving people their proper place. I don't plan on changing the books."

When asked about Israelis' fears that he would bring a religious agenda to the Education Ministry, Peretz said that the public should feel comfortable to trust him. "I’m a believer and I live my life according to the Torah," Peretz added.

Peretz's comments expand upon similar sentiments by his predecessor, Naftali Bennet. Inserting religion into secular education was one of Bennett's flagship programs.

Over the past several years, Haaretz has reported on the many ways that religion has become increasingly present within the Israeli education system.

Bennett made various strides to strengthen "Jewish identity" in secular schools.