Israel To Promote ‘Jewish Identity & The Bond With Israel’ Among Jewish Students Worldwide
I-24 NEWS – Israel is set to fund a major project to promote “Jewish identity and the bond with Israel” among university students worldwide, particularly the United States, Haaretz reported on Tuesday.
The Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, headed by the Modern Orthodox Naftali Bennett, plans to finance the project through three organizations – Chabad, Olami, and Hillel, of which the first two are linked to Orthodox beliefs.
The Foreign Ministry said the plan, expected to cost tens of millions of shekels, was formulated without its knowledge, according to the report.
The Ministry of Diaspora Affairs reportedly rejected criticism that the project reflected a pro-Orthodox ideology.
The project is to be led by Dvir Kahana, the ministry director and a former senior member of Elad, an organization that encourages Jews to settle in Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem; and Hagai Elitzur, the son of a founder of the settlement movement and adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The project is to involve hundreds of universities worldwide and is budgeted at NIS 250 million over two years, with about a third, NIS 80 million, coming from the government.
A senior figure in a US Jewish organization told Haaretz that Israel is set to extensively fund groups that represent only a small sector in the Jewish American community, causing “a sense that the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs is trying to export the distortions that exist in Israel to the diaspora community.”
“The ultimate goal is to build a solid foundation for hundreds of years ahead, which will link and strengthen the Jewish identity of the next generation,” Minister Bennett said.
According to the report, the Foreign Ministry discovered the existence of the project through media reports, and was completely left out of the planning. Senior officials told the newspaper that this was particularly surprising because Israeli consulates in North America are heavily involved in Jewish activities on university campuses.
The Ministry of Diaspora Affairs declared in response that activities would not focus on religion, but rather on “strengthening Jewish identity and the connection to Israel.”
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