(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
In light of an impending transfer of the Jewish Consciousness Department of the IDF rabbinate to the IDF Education Corp, close to 100 members of the Bayit Yehudi Central Committee wrote to party chairman Naftali Bennett warning him about the consequences of such a step.
The Jewish Consciousness [or identity] department of the IDF rabbinate is designed to “strengthen among soldiers and combat soldiers a fighting spirit and a sense of mission from the spiritual treasure of Jewish sources.”
The department has however been the focus of controversy for several years following accusations that it was overly zealous in the dissemination of religious services, values and exhortations to IDF personnel.
In the letter, members of the central committee said that the transfer of the department to the Education Corps would lead to a severe deterioration in the Jewish values of the IDF and would lead to non-Orthodox and non-Jewish influences permeating the army.
The letter was advanced by Bayit Yehudi Central Committee member Tuvia Brokner. According to political sources MKs from the Bayit Yehudi party, not from the more right-wing Tekuma faction of the joint Knesset faction, asked members of the central committee to sign the letter and that there were large numbers of members who supported the letter but chose not to sign.
“If we do not prevent this current disaster and accept this situation, we are likely to fund ourselves lighting the hannukia together with a Christmas tree, hosting swearing-in ceremonies at the Western Wall in the presence of Reform rabbis and holding Passover seder services which are in opposition to the spirit of Orthodox Judaism,” wrote the members.
The letter stated that there had been “a determined struggle” to close the Jewish Consciousness department” or to transfer it out of the IDF rabbinate.
“The significance of this battle is clear: an attempt to injure the Jewish identity of the State of Israel, this time via the IDF… Removing the Jewish Consciousness Department from the military rabbinate and transferring to to the IDF Manpower Directorate will hasten the entrance of the Reform and Conservative movements into the educational content of the IDF, through a neo-liberal perspective.”
Director of the Reform Movement in Israel Rabbi Gilad Kariv denounced the letter as “dripping with baseless hatred” and called on Bennett to distance himself from it.
“We call on Bayit Yehudia Chairman and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett to publicly reject this letter and to decisively defend the principle that IDF is the army of the entire people, of all its communities and groups,” said Kariv.
“It is a shame that that members of Bayit Yehudi prefer to bring politics to the ranks of the army and to arouse dispute in the IDF instead of developing mutual respect and love of other Jews.”
As reported by The Jerusalem Post
, in 2013 the Bina secular and pluralist organization that promotes Jewish culture and identity, began teaching the “Yeyud Ve’Yichud” course for IDF officers, designed to strengthen their Jewish and Israeli values and culture.
Jeremy Saltan, a member of the Bayit Yehudi central committee who signed the letter, rejected Kariv’s criticism.
"I signed the letter because I highly respect the IDF rabbinate that helped me greatly during my service and I would like it to keep its independence so that it can keep helping others,” said Saltan, adding that there is a broader plan to transfer the entire IDF rabbinate to the auspices of the IDF Education Corps.
“I am very sorry that Gilad is choosing to take this personally because it is not the case and it is he who is risking Sinat Chinam [baseless hatred] with dangerous assumptions.”