Most of the IDF’s weekend Jewish identity education programs for commanders are run by Orthodox Jewish organizations like Chabad and the right-wing Ir David (City of David) nonprofit, both of which push political and religious views on participants and even proselytize them against IDF regulations.
Originally published at 11:33 pm CDT 5-14-2015
Chabad, Right-Wing Zionist Orthodox Organizations Using Jewish Identity Education Seminars For IDF Offices To Proselytize And Push Political Views
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Most of the IDF’s weekend Jewish identity education programs for commanders are run by Orthodox Jewish organizations like Chabad and the right-wing Ir David (City of David) nonprofit, both of which push political and religious views on participants and even proselytize them against IDF regulations, Ha’aretz reported based on IDF documents it obtained.
“The IDF has abandoned education in the army to organizations with a clear agenda. This is distorted as far as education is concerned and dangerous to the discourse on Jewish and Israeli identity,” a source familiar with the situation reportedly said.
The IDF Spokesman’s Office reportedly refused to provide information on which religious organizations were running these programs or providing other services to the IDF, and would not discuss the programs’ content.
But according to the documents obtained by Ha’aretz, a program held in Jerusalem in November for company commanders initially included a lecture by a Reform woman rabbi “as part of a pluralistic approach that reflects a variety of identities.” But “the institute” – the Orthodox organization hosting the event – “canceled the lecture because it did not conform with its worldview.”
That same weekend there was tour of the Old City for those IDF officers. During it “offensive remarks were made about Islam. A Muslim-Bedouin officer was insulted and left the tour in the middle,” the documents reportedly show.
The IDF investigated the incident but the summary of the investigation obtained by Ha’aretz does not say what, if any, measures were taken against the organization that ran the tour.
The IDF refused to identify the Orthodox institute that ran the weekend program that included the tour and canceling the Reform rabbi’s talk. All it would say is the group would no longer work with the IDF until “the outline of the activity was redefined.”
36 of the 183 weekend education programs for the IDF last year were hosted and run by Chabad’s Ascent Institute in Sefat. Its website says that since 2005 the IDF has brought “hundreds of soldiers every week [to Ascent] for ‘tradition Sabbaths’ and study days in which the soldiers are exposed to their ancestral’ roots.”
However, several years ago the IDF’s Education Corps harshly criticized Ascent because soldiers frequently complained its program focused on kiruv – missionary religious coercion.
The IDF Spokesman’s Office rejected that criticism and insisted Ascent was kosher for the IDF to partner with because the Education Corps – which harshly criticized the IDF’s pairing with Ascent – supervises the activities there. There appears to be no indication of any major changes in Ascent’s programs since that criticism was made.
Other Orthodox groups running weekend religious programs for the IDF include the Western Wall Heritage Foundation (29 events), the Darchei Avot academy in Jerusalem (23 events), Todah L’Tzahal (19 events), the Golan Seminary Haspin (12 events) and the Chabad-linked Or Lachayal (eight events). The previously mentioned Ir David reportedly held 21 weekend programs for the IDF.
“We were not told that this [Ir David] is the same organization that is acting to make Ir David [the City of David just outside the Old City of Jerusalem’s walls; it is an Arab neighborhood and has been for hundreds of years] a Jewish place,” an IDF officer told Ha'aretz three years ago, referring to a history program Ir David ran for the IDF.
By way of contrast, only three groups identified with pluralistic or non-Orthodox Judaism ran programs for the IDF – the Bina Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture, Shitim and Alma altogether held only 20 programs.
Even more insulting to Israel’s secular founders, the Ben-Gurion Research Institute only held 15.
A source who until recently served in the IDF Education Corps told Ha’aretz Orthodox dominance of the weekend programs largely comes from the way the programs are funded.
“The the IDF insists that the organizations that want to work with it find their own donors. This is why most of the activities are run by Orthodox groups, some of them bordering on missionary work,” the source said.
Another source echoed that claim.
“It’s troubling that the IDF is willing to pay for tanks and food, but when it comes to education it’s all based on contributions…. Does anyone really believe Ir David’s activities aren’t ideological?” the second source said.
The IDF Spokesman’s Office essentially admitted those sources were correct.
“[The outside groups pairing with the IDF to provide educational programs are] subject to a uniform contract and pricing set by the Defense Ministry. Three institutes provide activities free of charge. We are acting to tighten supervision over these activities,” the IDF Spokesman’s Office said.
A source familiar with the inside workings of the IDF Education Corps told FailedMessiah.com that the problem is worse than what Ha’aretz was able to report based on the limited documents it obtained.