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Educational Ministry replacing traditional Shabbat preparation

Bowing to pressure from Secular Forum, Bennett's Educational Ministry to revamp traditional Friday activity welcoming Shabbat.

Tzvi Lev, 28/08/18 00:14 📷Naftali BennettKobi Richter/TPS

The Educational Ministry has succumbed to pressure from the anti-religious Secular Forum and will institute drastic changes to a traditional kindergarten activity welcoming the Shabbat.

For more than 50 years, Israeli kindergartens both secular and religious have performed a ceremony on Friday morning pantomiming a Shabbat meal. The activity is led by a boy titled "Shabbat Father" and a girl who is the "Shabbat Mother" and includes candle lighting and the singing of Shabbat songs alongside a traditional Shabbat meal.

The classical format raised the hackles of the anti-religious Secular Forum, which opined that it only represents Shabbat as experienced by observant Jews. Following pressure by the Secular Forum, the Education Ministry released a new format for the weekly activity that strips it of its Jewish themes.

Instead of the "Shabbat Father and Mother", the activity can now be led by "children of the week". The Shabbat songs were also updated and now talk about the joys of going to the beach and hiking.

The issue is part of a larger debate regarding the role of religion in Israel's public sphere. Over the past year, numerous stories have surfaced in the media concerning alleged cases of increasing religious coercion in Israel. Led by the Secular Forum, the stories have targeted courses in Jewish history and tradition in the school system, the influence of the IDF's military rabbinate, and popular Lag Baomer events given by Chabad at malls all across Israel.

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