Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Jewish Identity Administration

The Israeli government is establishing a new unit in the Religious Services Ministry with a positively Orwellian name - the "Jewish Identity Administration." Apparently the goal of this new administration is to strengthen the Jewish identity of (presumably only Jewish) Israelis. It sounds more like the Jewish Indoctrination Administration - and into a very particular kind of Judaism. The person who will head this administration is Rabbi Avichai Rontzki, who used to be the chief rabbi of the IDF and who is currently the rabbi of the yeshiva in the Jewish settlement of Itamar. Rontzki said, “The goal is not hahzara betshuvah [bringing Jews back to religion], but strengthening the Jewish identity in the State of Israel." He says that the goal is not to make people more religious, but to "strengthen Jewish identity, " which he seems, however, to think of as exclusively religious. And who will be working in this new "administration"? Yeshiva students!

He also said: “This is not folklore, it is not Jewish knowledge, that they should know more Judaism and win trivia games,” he stressed. “This is to strengthen the connection of the people not to the land, but to itself, its heritage. This is in my eyes a matter of survival. A person who does not know the Bible will, in moments of crisis, not last here. Today Jewish identity is very weak.”

Since he is a settler rabbi, and since he thinks the ideal teachers are yeshiva students, I would assume that he will employ yeshiva students who are thoroughly indoctrinated into "settler Judaism," which sees holding onto the whole land of Israel as the supreme Jewish value. He won't want Israeli Jews to learn about the spectrum of Jewish belief and practice, the different Jewish movements, differing opinions on the roles of women in Judaism, much less the commandments to "seek peace and pursue it" and "do not oppress the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt."

This is a new low for Judaism in the state of Israel.

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