Bennett in hot water after declaring: 'Jewish studies more important than math, science'
After protest from educators and researchers, education minister tries to calm storm: 'I want every graduate of our education system to be able to converse in quality English and know why we say Selichot. Judaism and excellence are not mutually exclusive and we will continue to implement both full force.'
Bennett was quick to explain, saying, "I want every graduate of our education system to know how to write code and know what the Kiddush (a ceremonial prayer over wine said during the meal ushering in Shabbat) is."
Menashe Levy, the chairman of the Principals' Association in Israel, said "Bennett forgets that he is the Minister of Education for all students in Israel, and he needs to act like it. No subject is worth more than others. It is important to nurture students who have values and think, and the rest will follow."
Math and physics teachers said Bennett's statements could harm efforts they are making to encourage students to invest in the sciences.
Professor Aaron Ciechanover, Nobel laureate for Chemistry in 2004 and Technion faculty member, said "I didn't hear exactly what Bennett said about Jewish studies and relations to the sciences, but if he did say it, I would hope he isn't serious.
"These things are sadly consistent with the decision to dismiss an entire generation of students from core studies that are essential not only for them to live their lives with dignity, success and health, but also for the State of Israel to be strong and robust. Judaism and the sciences are both important in their own right, but to rank them on a scale of importance is an act of folly. The comparison between the two is political and it's a shame it's coming from minister entrusted with fostering both subjects equally."
Professor Peretz Lavie, President of the Technion and Chairperson of the Association of University Heads, said Bennett's speech was "poetic," and it was tailored to please the audience at whom it was directed. Furthermore, he added, "Widespread education is an inalienable asset. Mathematics is important, so that's why it pains me that they gave up on core subjects for the Haredim."
In an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth, Ynet's sister publication, Bennett further tried to explain himself. "We are Jews living in a Jewish state and are proud of heritage and tradition. I want every graduate of our education system to be able to converse in quality English and know why we say Selichot (Jewish penitential prayers said leading up to the High Holy Days). We need to let each boy and girl in Israel form their own identity. That is our job in the education system. Judaism and excellence are not mutually exclusive and we will continue to implement both full force."