Rabbi Yigal Levenstein.
(photo credit: YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT)
In the wake of the uproar surrounding the offensive comments made by the head of the Eli pre-military academy, the Defense Ministry said it was “demanding clarifications” from the institute on the matter.
In a speech last week, Rabbi Yigal Levenstein described gays as “perverts” and Reform Judaism as “a Christian denomination.”
The IDF is also reportedly considering whether or not to prevent Levenstein from visiting IDF bases and addressing soldiers, while the head of the IDF’s Manpower Directorate Maj.-Gen. Hagai Topolanski postponed a scheduled visit to Levenstein’s academy in Eli on Tuesday and a lecture to soldiers the rabbi was supposed to deliver.
Questions have now been asked about the educational message coming out of Levenstein’s Bnei David academy, which was the first such institute to be established in 1989, and if there is a need for further action.
There are currently 21 religious pre-military academies and another 27 regular academies. Their operation was formally arranged by the Law for Pre-Military Academies, 2008.
The purpose of the academies is to prepare students for army service, and for the course of a year are educated in Zionism, moral values, familiarity with the geography of the state, and similar fields.
Religious pre-military academies also teach religious studies, prepare students who typically come from the state religious school system, for interaction with secular society and religious issues they may confront in their IDF service.
The academies are funded by the Education Ministry, but the Defense Ministry, through its Security-Society Department, is responsible for giving initial, temporary recognition to new academies, which lasts for two to three years.
After that time, the Defense Ministry recommends to the Education Ministry whether or not to give the academy permanent status.
An advisory committee in the Defense Ministry comprising various representatives of the two ministries and the IDF is responsible for oversight and inspection of the academies.
The regulations also state that an academy “cannot conduct political activities or party-political activities, and similarly may also not conduct activities that contravene the values of the State of Israel and the IDF.”
Should the committee have cause for concern about a particular academy it can request clarifications regarding educational content, activities, and other matters from the institution.
The committee can then, if it so wishes, advise the director of the Defense Ministry to recommend that the Education Ministry revoke recognition and funding of such an academy.
It may also recommend other actions to remedy any problems it might find in the running of an academy.
The revocation of recognition for an academy has never occurred to date, although some academies have been refused permanent recognition after their temporary recognition period expired.
In the Defense Ministry’s statement on Monday, it said it “views the words of the head of the Eli academy Rabbi Yigal Levenstein with great severity and strongly deplores them.”