price tag graffiti mosque 311 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini)
In his Op-Ed article, "'Price tag' - the product of our educational failures,"
(September 19) Rabbi Yosef Blau does not explicitly mention the Bnei Akiva
yeshivot and ulpanot, but relates to religious Zionist education in Israel in
general. Merkaz Yeshivot Bnei Akiva (YBA) is proud to be the spearhead of the
religious Zionist education movement in Israel.
As a veteran educator at
YBA schools both in Israel and abroad, and as the current director of education
at Merkaz YBA, I can say with complete confidence that our educational path is
one of love and respect. Hatred of others is contrary to the educational values
we teach our students and we oppose it on all levels: educationally, ethically
Rabbi Blau admits that religious Zionist educators
do not openly advocate in favor of the “price tag” acts, but cites other
educational faults that in his opinion ultimately lead a minority of students to
joining the 'price tag' vigilantes. I want to remove any doubt regarding YBA's
position on this matter: anyone who desecrates mosques or harms an Israeli
soldier is a criminal and should be treated accordingly.
institutions educate our students to respect every person as a human being, as
well as his right to private property. Anyone who knowingly takes and uses the
property of others, including the private land of an Arab, is a thief. I have
personally heard many times the chairman of YBA, Rabbi Haim Drukman, address
this issue at various conferences for the principals, faculty and students of
our network's 68 schools.
Each time, Rabbi Drukman spoke strongly against
those who may think that it is permissible to seize the private property of
others or to harass a stranger, be it an Israeli Arab, Palestinian or anyone
Similarly, we teach our students to accept government and Knesset
decisions even if they appear to them to be wrong.
seeks to ensure the right of democratic protest. As such, our youth were well
entitled to demonstrate against the evacuation of Gush Katif. The very fact that
the evacuation/expulsion, as horrible as it was, was carried out without massive
violent protests proves that the boundaries of legitimate civil disobedience are
understood by the vast majority of our students.
As to the factual
inaccuracies in Rabbi Blau's accusations: In our educational network we
emphasize the ruling of Maimonides and other authorities that one cannot
identify Amalek in today's reality, because, in the words of the Sages: "they
mingled among the nations and cannot be found." Furthermore, I do not know of a
single institution in our network that teaches that the duty to settle the Land
of Israel is among the three commandments of which it is said "suffer death
rather than transgress." Certainly no teacher has ever claimed that one should
kill rather than transgress! On the contrary, we constantly emphasize that
during legitimate protests it is forbidden to use physical violence or even
It is a well known fact that we teach love of the Land
of Israel and its settlement, and that we indeed hold that it is a foremost
commandment, right alongside and equal to love of the entire Jewish people and
the Torah. But Bnei Akiva yeshivot and ulpanot also educate youth to understand
the complexity of our modern reality and to participate fully in every aspect of
Israeli society. This is what separates the path of religious Zionism from the
path of the ultra-Orthodox.
Religious Zionist education is not the root
cause of hilltop youth, marginal youth or the “price tag” phenomena – one must
look deeper for the underlying psycho-social causes of fanaticism. The reality
is that our youth are brought up to respect the sovereignty of the state, and to
contribute everywhere and in every significant way to the building of the Jewish
state. Our graduates can be found in every industrial, academic and professional
sector of Israeli society, and include many leading artists, scientists,
industrialists, IDF generals, mayors, Supreme Court justices, Members of Knesset
and Israel Prize winners. We do not have to testify to this reality; our
country's leaders are well aware of it, and we are certainly proud of
Any educator can make a mistake and say something that might be
construed by a student to justify his personal tendency toward extremism. There
is no righteous man on earth who does only good and never sins. But the point of
our education is to instill righteousness, which includes recognizing the rights
of the Arab minority in our state, because all human beings are created in God's
image. As Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hacohen Kook wrote: "The truly righteous do not
complain about evil, but add justice; do not complain about heresy, but add
faith; do not complain about ignorance, but add wisdom." This is the essence of
religious Zionist education that we give our students.The writer is the
director of education for Merkaz Yeshivot Bnei Akiva in Israel.