Monday, August 27, 2007

Tamir Under Fire for National Service Cuts and More


I picture this woman in a smoky laboratory, he hair standing on end, a red light behind her, a crazed look of power in her eyes as she proclaims, "I am the all powerful! The great and amazing Tamir!!"

She definitely thinks she's got it all figured out, after all, she is the smartest one, right?--she just needs to "teach" the sad, misguided religious camp a few things, and we will come round to her way of thinking.

by Hillel Fendel

( At the request of 25 nationalist camp MKs, a special mid-recess Knesset session will be held to discuss two topics: Education Minister Yuli Tamir's anti-religious policies, and the final-status diplomatic negotiations being waged by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with the PA despite his lack of a mandate to do so.

Tamir has made several controversial decisions in recent weeks. Most recently, she announced last week a drastic cutback in National Service girls who teach Judaism in secular schools.

For decades, National Service girls have, among other things, bolstered the educational staffs in secular schools by teaching classes in basic Jewish concepts, including history, culture, and religious customs. Minister Tamir, however, a founding member of the radical Peace Now organization, and who holds firm secular humanist views, has decided to cut the number of such "teaching slots" in half, from 300 to 150. This, despite the fact that principals and parents in these schools have expressed great satisfaction with the results.

The cost of each "slot" is some 25,000 shekels (nearly $6,000) a year, says Yaron Lutz, the head of one of the largest national service volunteer organizations, the National Volunteer Association. "This includes pocket money of 700 shekels a month, rent, furnishings, Torah classes, and more," he told Arutz-7. "It's not something that we can supply ourselves..."

Lutz said he has little hope of changing Tamir's mind. "I was at a meeting between her and Rabbi Tzefaniah Drori, the Chief Rabbi of Kiryat Shmonah," Lutz said. "Rabbi Drori told her how much it means to parents even in secular schools to have this little bit of Judaism - but it didn't move her. She sees things differently."

Asked if he has any hope in the upcoming special Knesset session, Lutz said, "I don't believe that it will get her to change her mind, nor will the pressure work. It may even strengthen her, as she will be able to prove to her supporters that she is 'changing the national priorities.'"

Rabbi Drori himself is not as pessimistic. He said the decree is not as absolute as it appears, and that Tamir realizes she cannot do whatever she wants. "In Kiryat Shmonah, for instance, we will not be losing any of our National Service slots," he said.

Last month, Tamir decided that Arab schoolchildren in Israel will be taught the Arab view of Israel's Independence Day - namely, that the founding of the State of Israel as a homeland for the Jews was actually a tragedy (Nakba) for Arabs. This decision, as well, caused an outburst of opposition. MK Zevulun Orlev (NRP), for instance, who once served as Director-General of the Education Ministry, called upon Prime Minister Olmert to fire Tamir for making an "anti-Zionist decision that... gives Arabs the legitimacy not to recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish people. This decision marks the Nakba of Israel's education network."

Among the Knesset Member signatories demanding next week's special Knesset session were Yaakov Margi (Shas), Uri Ariel (National Union), three members of Kadima, the entire Yisrael Beiteinu faction, and more.

"Tamir is using the public education resources to advance her extremist political Peace Now-type outlook," MK Ariel said. "Her recent decisions show that she no longer sees herself as Minster of Education of all parts of the nation, but only of the most extreme margins."

Orbach's Attack
Religious-nationalist columnist and radio personality Uri Orbach recently wrote an article on Ynet entitled, "Envious Left Can't Stand the Institutions that Raise a Self-Confident Religious Elite." He wrote of three phenomena: Tamir's religious-education budget cuts; the attacks and threats against Bar Ilan University because of Prof. Hillel Weiss' recent incendiary remarks following the violent expulsion of two families from Hevron; and ministers' threats to close the hesder yeshivot after two yeshiva student/soldiers refused to carry out Hevron expulsion orders.

The common denominator among these and other incidents, Orbach wrote, is the "atmosphere among several senior government officials and their representatives in the media, who exploit every opportunity to attack and insult the national-religious. Kadima and the Labor Party are about to lose power, and they are attempting to harm important institutions and enterprises that the national-religious public has been building here for decades... The secular schools are happy with the religious girls' role in strengthening Jewish education. Yes, the secular public - other than the Minister of Education - want their children to benefit from a bit of Zionism and Judaism, and they are happy that this work is being done by religious girls doing national service... But the militantly-secular look askance on religious people who are not part of the secular majority. The second- and third-generation of the classic Mapai, a minority that for demographic and other reasons is growing ever smaller, cannot stand the institutions of religious education: hesder yeshivot, national service, pre-army preparatory programs, the university, and of course, the settlements - all the places that lead the agenda and are raising a self-confident religious elite. That is why, when a politician like Yuli Tamir takes up her exalted post, she does everything she can to cause harm to the right-wing religious..."

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