The Israel Zionist Council reported recently of a drastic drop of more than 60% in the number of its religious teenage members, from a representation of 40% to only 15%.
The Council's director-general, Moshe Ben Atar, appealed to Education Minister Yuli Tamir over the matter, demanding an urgent meeting on what he defined as the "segregation" of the religious education institutions, which he claimed were preventing their students from conducting a dialogue with secular youth.
In his letter, Ben Atar pointed to the dramatic drop in the number of Zionist religious members of the Council, saying he believes one of the main reasons for this trend is the rift created in this public following the pullout from the Gaza Strip.
According to Ben Atar, the religious education institutes create segregation and are causing difficulties in terms of meetings with youths from state institutions. He demanded an urgent meeting sponsored by the education minister and additional elements in order to deal with the phenomenon.
In his letter, the Council director-general noted that his organization is a pan-Zionist and pan-Israeli organization operating among all layers of Israeli society and including secular and religious youth in its activities. In the past two years, however, the percentage of religious youth has plunged from at least 40% to 15%, he added.
A similar letter was sent to Knesset Member Rabbi Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad), chairman of the Knesset's Education Committee, with a request to convene its members for a special discussion of the issue.
"Our youth coordinators find it very difficult to enter religious schools," said Ben Atar. "We are aware of the deep rift created also as a result of the disengagement process in religious Zionism, a crisis damaging the common Zionist denominator with the general public."
He said that the data were revealed in the conclusion meeting of the organization's summer projects, and warned, "We are very concerned about this process of seclusion which does not contribute to the creation of the harmony required for the joint dialogue of the next generation in the Israeli society, and may deteriorate social relations in Israel."