Senior national-religious rabbis on Tuesday sent a letter to the heads of religious educational institutions in which they warn against the method of instruction demanded by the Education Ministry.
The stances of two senior rabbis at the Har HaMor yeshiva – which is considered to be the flagship of the more conservative national religious approach – were attached to the letter. They called the ministry's curriculum "a lie and a betrayal of Jewish tradition."
Among the signatories of the main letter are Rabbi Dov Lior, Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl and Samaria Chief Rabbi Elyakim Levanon. They wrote that "the approach to Torah studies requires a clear awareness of the fact that you are not studying 'biblical stories' or a history book, rather these are events we are brought up on to implement in our lives on this earth.
The intended curriculum has no emphasis on this purpose and worse – there are trends and approaches that do not comply with the sages' views; through distortion and inappropriate interpretation of the Torah with corrupt viewpoints at their base."
The signatories ask that the principals and teachers act with "extreme caution" and not worry over protesting against the curriculum. "This is a case of mortal and spiritual danger, and it is of vital importance to us," they stressed.
The heads of the Har HaMor yeshiva, Rabbi Mordechai Sternberg and Rabbi Yehoshua Zukerman added their stance in a sharper tone: "We were deeply shocked to discover that some of the articles and subjects distributed on the State Religious Education website are infected with criticism of the bible and have a defective view of the bible's figures.
"We believe that to interpret the bible which is the holy of holies of the Israeli nation in this way is a lie and a betrayal of Israel's traditions. We cannot accept this education method which is completely lacking in any fear of God and presents a secular and non-Jewish interpretation."
According to Har HaMor rabbis, even though much of the content of the website - which aimed towards biblical studies teachers – was removed, the fact that it was put up in the first place "attests to the true intentions of the curriculum's authors."
The Education Ministry said in response that the curriculum was put together by a professional committee on bible subjects, for the State Religious Education curriculum led by Rabbi Professor Eli Asis, the head of the Biblical Studies Department at Bar Ilan University together with Rabbi Yeshayahu Hadari, the President of the Hakotel yeshiva.
The program's outline was distributed to teachers and placed online on the State religious Education website in March. The program was recently approved in full under the guidance of Chief Ramat Gan Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, Rabbi Haim Druckman, Rabbi Yeshayahu Hadari, Rabbi Avi Gisar and Rabbi Eitan Eizman.
The ministry added that it should be noted that some of the enrichment material raised comment. This material is not mandatory and is to be considered as a recommendation to those teachers who are interested.
Out of sensitivity towards the comments, we removed the enrichment material from the website – and a special team will examine it with further consideration from the rabbis (who guide the program).
Tomer Velmer contributed to the report