Rabbis group warns IDF: Leftists seek to dilute Holocaust message

Torat Halechima says the Education Corps is “damaging the IDF” by allowing lessons that universalize the Holocaust. 

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Ahead of Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day beginning Monday night, “Rabbis of Israel,” a religious group, warned the IDF on Sunday that a liberal institute is offering the troops educational programming that dilutes the message of the Holocaust as a unique catastrophe that befell the Jewish people.

“Rabbis of Israel,” whose Hebrew name Torat Halechima is a play on words which literally means “military tactics,” penned a letter to IDF Chief Education Officer Brig. Gen. Zvika Faireisen accusing the Shalom Hartman Institute of having “agendas supported by subjects like ‘The Holocaust Haggadah’ of the Dutch Van-Leer Institute that has given rise to a twisted perception of the Holocaust among senior officers in the IDF.”

Funded in part by the far-left New Israel Fund, the nonprofit Hartman Institute focuses on Jewish research and education with the stated mission of strengthening Israeli democracy, “Jewish peoplehood, identity and pluralism.”

Torat Halechima is led by a group of rabbis who have served in the Army and combat what they identify as radical leftist trends in the IDF which undermine the trust of the religious, Zionist public in Israel’s military.

In its letter, the group linked the Hartman Institute to other “well-funded organizations trying to refashion the memory of the Shoah in Israel in general, and in the IDF in particular, and to frame the narrative of the Holocaust as a regular human evil called ‘the slippery slope’ that supposedly already grips parts of the Israeli public on issues like the Arabs in Israel or the African infiltrators.”

One example they gave of the “great damage done to the Army and the public’s trust in the IDF” was a speech given four years ago by then-deputy chief of staff Maj. Gen. Yair Golan at a Holocaust remembrance ceremony in which he contended that he sees “signs” of Nazism in Israel.

“There is nothing easier than hating the other. There is nothing easier than raising fears and sowing terror. There is nothing easier than becoming callous, morally corrupt and hypocritical,” he said at the time.

A firestorm of protest immediately erupted at his “ignorance and cheapening of the Holocaust,” as then-Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked put it. The next day, Golan clarified that he had had “no intention whatsoever to draw any sort of parallel or to criticize the national leadership,” and backed the IDF as “a moral army that respects the rules of engagement and protects human dignity.”

After leaving the Army, Golan joined the far-left Meretz party and is currently serving as one of its representatives in the Knesset.

Regarding the Holocaust Haggadah, a quick reading does not appear to justify the criticism Torat Halechima has aimed at it. Published a decade ago, it discusses the various aspects of the Holocaust in narrative and song (such as the Partisans’ Hymn), as well as the importance of the State of Israel in ensuring the continuation of the Jewish people.

Just as in the Passover Seder, there are symbolic foods, such as potato peels, and symbolic actions, such as lighting six candles one at a time, blowing out each in turn to represent one million of those who perished. The only universal aspect is found in a few paragraphs speaking of the lessons learned from this period of Jewish history of the need to protect the weak and to speak up against injustice and evil wherever it is found, in the context of “Never Again.”