Why the Defense Minister decided to stop funding the Mechina in Eli

Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, head of the military pre-army preparatory year (Mechina) located in the settlement of Eli, is a known racist, who time and again has been reported to express misogynistic opinions against women as well as intolerant and racist slander against the LGBT community and many other groups. This same person is also charged with educating hundreds, if not thousands of Yeshiva students who then go on to become military leaders and educators themselves. Thus, unacceptable racism is gradually gaining the status of a legitimate opinion.

Of course, there is no such thing as a legitimate racist opinion. Appointing a man such as Levinstein as the head of an educational institution, and thereby indicating that being a racist and an inciter is a legitimate profession in modern Israel, means that Israeli society as a whole is jeopardized.

The Phenomenon of “Legitimate Racism” in Israel

A significant portion of settlement leaders, members of Rabbi Levinstein’s milieu, are becoming a central component of the government, that is, the decision makers. Some of them are even associated with the Jewish Underground (Hamakhteret Yayehudit), the Jewish terrorist organization that acted in the early 80’s and which has significantly harmed Palestinian leaders in the Judea and Samaria area.

Agents acting underground who were detrimental to the security of the state of Israel received a general amnesty following their arrest for planting explosives in a large bus parking lot, a scheme that, had it been executed, would have hurt hundreds of people. These agents took part in violent actions aimed at causing death and occupying the Temple Mount (Har HaBayit). Some of them have resumed their roles as leaders in the National Religious (Dati Leumi) sector, and all of them have been restored as a legitimate voice in Israeli public life. They include political leaders, journalists, and opinion shapers who are influencing the lives of the Israeli public to this day.

In my estimation, these people are seen as guides and role models by the field agents in the Judea and Samaria area. What we have on our hands is an ongoing phenomenon of civilians acting in a violent and illegal fashion (Amona is a case in point), and directly harming the Israeli moral laws, while maintaining their roles as legitimate opinion leaders. Unfortunately, the government has been accepting them as such for decades.

As far as I can judge, the support that Rabbi Levinstein has received in the media channels is illegitimate; not everyone is entitled to the same rights. Take Kahane, for example, a fascist and an inciter who managed to gather a crowd of followers and who penetrated the Parliament, all the while flagging radical and dangerous opinions, until eventually he was removed from political office and his organization was termed illegitimate.

shimon sheves - Inherent Racism in Israeli Society
Inherent Racism in Israeli Society

Teachers, guides, educators, or anyone holding a position that involves imparting moral values, directly affect the future of the state, especially if serving in a public position that is governmentally funded (e.g. education system, the military). A person who is known to be a racist and an agitator simply cannot be given an official position of such power.

I have two grown daughters, both of whom went through military service, one of them also signed on for longer service. They went into the army with a Jewish identity, and came out with a Jewish identity. Sure, Levinstein can share his far-reaching opinions with his friends, but his statements should be confined to the private space of his home, they should certainly not receive a place in public spheres. Furthermore, he himself should not be established as a role model for thousands of people. The state of Israel cannot continue to fund institutions that are led by the likes of Levinstein. Hence the resolution of the Minister of Defense to stop all funding to the Eli Institute, as long as it is led by Rabbi Yigal Levinstein.

About the Author
Shimon Sheves was General Director of the Prime Minister's office under the late Yizhak Rabin. He is currently the Founder and Chairman of HolistiCyber, which provides nation-state level cyber security solution.
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