Education Minister Naftali Bennett declared Wednesday that the Bnei David Academy in Eli, headed by Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, would not lose its government funding, and that he would protect the institution from attempts to undermine the school.
Bennett’s statements come in the midst of an ongoing controversy centered around the school’s founder and director, Rabbi Levinstein, and comments he made regarding homosexuals, the Reform movement, and the integration of women in the IDF.
Rabbi Levinstein has been nominated to serve as the IDF’s newest Chief Rabbi. Critics of Rabbi Levinstein have sought to block his confirmation as the military’s top religious figure, and have even looked to deprive the Bnei David Academy of government funding.
Responding to demands by Zionist Union MK Eitan Cabel that the Education Ministry cut funding to the pre-army academy, Bennett wrote that he not only would insure that the school would remain fully-funded, he also pledged to block any “attempts to harm this wonderful institution.”
In the letter, a copy of which has been obtained by Arutz Sheva, Bennett noted his own opposition to Rabbi Levinstein’s controversial statements, but insisted he nevertheless supported the rabbi and his academy.
“I’m not afraid to condemn harsh, painful comments that incite against groups or individuals in Israel, even if it means I’ll have to pay a political price. That’s how I’ve always been, and that’s also how I acted this week when I was the first from the government to condemn the things that were said [by Rabbi Levinstein].”
“With that being said,” Bennett continued, “don’t draw the conclusion that I have anything against the academy in Eli and the work being done there. Quite the opposite is true.”
“The academy in Eli isn’t just any academy. This is the mother of all academies in Israel,” Bennett wrote. Bnei David was the first pre-army academy established in Israel, and has earned praise from across the political spectrum, with former Prime Minister and President Shimon Peres calling it the “pride” of Israel.
“The religious academies, secular ones, mixed ones, Druze ones and others – all of them were inspired by the establishment of the Eli academy.”
“This is the largest academy, with the highest percentage of officers and professional soldiers, many of whom have made their way to senior command positions in the IDF.”
“I am proud that the Education Ministry helps finance the academy in Eli, and I will do everything in my power to protect this wonderful institution.”