The Jewish Identity Obsession

The bill for a proposed Basic Law on Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people is another aspect of this obsession.

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The Religious Services Ministry's Jewish Identity Administration should never have been established. The identity of a person, society or state should not be based on the instructions of an ideologically biased bureaucracy that is the spoiled fruit of a coalition agreement.

The Jewish Identity Administration is a parody of the way a certain group - in this case the national-religious community - tries to force its values on people who do not share its beliefs. It is based on ideological violence cloaked in emotional rhetoric, whose real goal is to transform the consciousness of Israel's schoolchildren and bring them closer to a certain interpretation of Judaism - a patronizing interpretation with fascist elements.

It turns out that for high school students, the main goal is to "strengthen love for the Jewish homeland, for the Jewish people and for historical Jewish tradition. This will be achieved by creating "a living, meaningful encounter for Jewish youth with the treasures of Jewish thought throughout the generations and with the historical legacy of the Jewish people." All this is meant to "restore the Jewish soul to the State of Israel."

A person's Jewish identity is manifested in many ways, and each of us decides this for ourselves and our children. Jewish secularism is also a rich and complex world, certainly more advanced and enlightened, yet it has no "identity administration." The one-fifth of Israeli citizens who are Arab do not have an identity administration. On the contrary, Israel is not the least bit interested in fostering "love for the homeland" and "Arab heritage" among Arab youth.

It is completely improper for an agency to be established at the Religious Services Ministry that goes around the Education Ministry. This recalls the military rabbinate's scandalous takeover of work better done by the Israel Defense Forces Education Corps.

The Education Ministry said there had been no discussions on the matter, but the administration's head, Rabbi Avichai Rontzki, said schools "are totally free to decide what external groups they wish to work with." The education minister must stop this invasion of the education system, which has much more urgent matters on its plate.

The administration is part of an all-out assault by a government obsessed with Jewish identity. The bill for a proposed Basic Law on Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people is another aspect of this obsession. So is the demand by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The pieces of the puzzle form a sorry portrait of an insecure government.

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