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No Religious 'Faces of Israel'

A government delegation dubbed the “Faces of Israel” has no religious representatives, and none from Judea and Samaria.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 2/16/2011, 6:00 PM / Last Update: 2/16/2011, 6:52 PM

Jewish Agency

A government project dubbed the “Faces of Israel” aims to introduce North American students to their Israeli counterparts. A delegation of young Israelis representing various sectors of society will travel to college campuses to answer questions about their country.

Politicians and activists on the political Right were surprised to discover that while the delegation is ethnically diverse, it has no hareidi-religious or other religious Jewish representatives, and none of the delegates are from Judea or Samaria.

The delegates include Ethiopian-Israelis, Israeli Arabs, Druze, Bedouins, and representatives of the homosexual community.

Minister for Public Diplomacy (Hasbara) and Diaspora Affairs Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, whose office is behind the project, defended its lack of religious and geographical diversity. A statement from his office noted that Edelstein himself lives in the Judea town of N'vei Daniel, in Gush Etzion.

“It is true that the delegation does not include a representative from Judea and Samaria. However, the minister is traveling with the delegation to campuses, and it is known that the minister is from Judea and Samaria,” the statement said.

It continued, “We believed it right to form a delegation of specifically those people who are diverse and slightly different from Israeli society, and from the minister in particular.”

While the exact percent of Israeli Jewish society that is religious is not known, an estimated 30% of Israel Jews observe the Sabbath, and only 42% define themselves as secular. More than 327,000 Israelis live in Judea and Samaria, and another 230,000 live in parts of Jerusalem that were liberated in the Six Day War.