Religious Zionist schools use Rabin memorial day to focus on tolerance

Amit schools director-general warns against verbal attacks on IDF

As schools across the country marked the memorial day for slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, voices from within the religious Zionist community said they were eager to use the commemoration to express their dissatisfaction with recent comments made by extremists attributed to their camp, and called for reconciliation between the sectors in Israeli society. Amnon Eldar, the director-general of the Amit network of religious Zionist schools, said in a letter sent to the schools' principals that he was calling on them to "utilize homeroom time and other ceremonies for the memorial to strengthen the state education system and to admonish the fringe extremists who attacked the IDF." Amit, which manages 75 schools and thousands of teachers, is the largest network of religious Zionist schools nationwide. In his letter, Eldar also asked principals and teachers to emphasize the dangers of undermining the state and the foundations of democracy. "Dr. Eldar instructed teachers to discuss with the students the severity of murder in general, the meaning of the assassination of the prime minister of a democratic country, and the significance of the murder at the hands of a fellow Jew," read a statement released by Amit. "Especially in light of the recent days, in which we have heard extremists taunt and insult the IDF, it is important to remember that we are the IDF. The front line of the IDF's commanders and officers are graduates of Amit schools and religious education in general. We cannot remain silent when someone attacks the state, the IDF or the thread that connects the different sections of Israeli society," he wrote. "While it's clear that these extremists are not representative of the majority of the settler movement - of which my daughters and their families are a part, we are required, as educators, to show the students what our educational stance is, and what the ways of Torah and Religious Zionism are," he wrote. Expounding on his letter in a conversation with The Jerusalem Post, Eldar stressed that the vast majority of the religious Zionist community were not extremists, but a large part of the mainstream. "I hear all the time from my peers, who are in hi-tech, the medical field, etc., that they want nothing to do with the extremist sentiments being aired in the media. Yet, for some reason they, the majority, are treated as a phenomenon, while the fringe is treated as the norm," he said. Amit was not alone in using the memorial day to express a different voice. Schools in Efrat, Beit El and other settlements in the West Bank held a variety of memorial prayers, discussions and ceremonies commemorating Rabin. "We had a lot of different activities throughout the schools today," a spokeswoman from Efrat's Education Department said. "One of our goals was to present a different tone than the public is used to hearing. We're actually a very pluralistic town, with people from all walks of life, even though we're not always portrayed as such." At the Beit El high school for boys, which serves much of the Binyamin Regional Council, a special memorial prayer was added to the morning liturgy and the head of the Beit El yeshiva delivered a lecture entitled, "Yitzhak Rabin: The Death of a Leader," a spokesman for the high school told the Post. In other schools and commemoration ceremonies across the country, Rabin was remembered as a pioneer, a military man who gave many years of service to his country and a leader who died for following his beliefs. At a ceremony for Rabin at the Jerusalem International Convention Center (Binyanei Ha'uma) Education Minister Yuli Tamir said, "For a principled educational dialogue to be conducted within the education system, we must develop a tolerant society - one that denounces the extremism, which threatens the continuation of the State of Israel as a democratic state."