“The Tip of the Spear”
by Yinon Ahiman
Israel Hayom Op-Ed – 25/8/2016
A quick glance at the Ministry of Education’s list of high schools with high values which excelled in social and educational achievements quickly reveals a categorization process which was blind to geographical, sectorial or religious parameters. It appears that in compiling the list, the Ministry of Education was able to do something we, as a society, have difficulty doing: to look above the labels which are so deeply embedded in our individual and collective consciousness. Jews and Arabs, from the periphery and from urban hubs, religious and secular, “settlers” and residents of central Israel – each group is represented on this list in which ethics, hard work and concrete results were the only considerations – as is appropriate; as is just.
However, with the work of the selection committee over and the list’s publication, an analysis of the data can help us shatter a number of misconceptions and maybe even bridge between some of the ever-widening gaps in Israeli society. One of the statistics worth examining is the high measure of religious schools represented on the list, nearly a quarter.
For months, many within the National Religious community have felt under attack, as our dedication and values have been cast in doubt. With one PR disaster following another public folly, members of the religious Zionist camp have found themselves apologizing for statements, opinions and misdeeds which, although spoken or carried out by individual members, were attributed by mainstream Israel to the entire National Religious sector at large.
It goes without saying that the frustration inherent in this reality, especially but not solely for the young religious generation, is huge. Our young people breathe and live ahavat ha’aretz – a love of the Land of Israel; they dedicate their free time to volunteer activities, represent the “tip of the spear,” or the vanguard, of the elite units in the IDF and will soon be the leaders of our economy and our society. And they do not do these things despite their beliefs or their religion, but rather because of it; the world of Jewish values, of Torah and ethics instilled in them by their parents and teachers has guided them toward respecting one’s fellow man and dedication to one’s country. This is the source of great frustration when there are those in the press or public who portray the world of values in which they grew up as being in opposition to the values of the country and the IDF.
The list of schools found to have the highest values published yesterday can mend some of these deep rifts, soften the background noise and the battle cries and bring to the stage the most important thing for us as a society: values. For the principals, teachers and students in the religious schools, this list is an opportunity to remind Israeli society that the National Religious believe that “derech eretz kadma l’Torah” – that developing good attributes precedes Torah learning – and that we will continue to educate and live by the complementary values of Torah, morality and justice.
Yinon Ahiman is the Director General of the Ohr Torah Stone network, three of whose high schools ranked in Level 1 of the Ministry of Education’s Excellence List, each for the second time.