Missionaries in the Schools

Responsibility for stopping the Judeo-nationalist indoctrination of children is now in the hands of secular schools and parents

Minister of Education Naftali Bennet in a kindergarten in Raanana, Sep 1, 2015
Sasson Tiram

Education Minister Naftali Bennett continues to use his ministry as a mechanism for preaching and missionizing the worldview of his religious Zionist party, Habayit Hayehudi.

In kindergarten, youngsters pray for the rebuilding of the Temple; Jewish identity centers, reinforced by members of “Torah nucleus” groups and Orthodox girls doing civilian service instead of going into the army, seek to settle in the hearts of secular Israeli cities; a new and glittering curriculum was launched on “Jewish-Israeli culture”; and now a religious nongovernmental organization identified with the religious-Zionist movement has been called in to teach parents and teachers.

Bennett will not stop, and the Education Ministry won’t be able to stop him. Responsibility for stopping the Judeo-nationalist indoctrination of children is now in the hands of secular schools and parents.

The new training project is funded jointly by the Education Ministry and the Binyan Shalem Institute, which presents itself as a “center for the empowerment of couples and parents.” The goal of the program, as stated by its marketing brochure, is “providing tools to strengthen the relationship with the child,” and “starting processes that generate positive behavioral change among children.”

But these innocent slogans mask a strict Orthodox worldview. It is no coincidence that Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who signed off on a racist ruling in Jewish law prohibiting Jews in Safed from selling or renting housing to Arabs, is the star at Binyan Shalem’s annual conferences, together with another regular guest – Naftali Bennett (Or Kashti, September 29).

There is no place in state secular schools for an organization that preaches that “a man is decisive and a woman is experiential”; that the secret to being a healthy couple is to fear God; and that only when women worship God “will we be able to enjoy a feeling of liberation, relief and joy.”

We must not accept the Education Ministry decision to allow a religious-Zionist group to be responsible for “a system of training, support and enrichment for parents and teachers on educational issues they encounter.” The values of this organization are fiercely debated even within the Orthodox community, and now they are being exported, with Bennett’s help, to the secular public.

Secular parents can educate their own children and, when needed or desired, can consult with the many organizations that are close to their particular worldview. The missionizing of Binyan Shalem and the Education Ministry must be utterly rejected, and should be removed from schools.