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Israeli Military Officer: A Victim of Ignorance?

It is not a secret that the Israelis do not know the basic fact about American Jewry and its dynamics. Of course, there are some scholars or some Jewish agencies or governmental experts or officials who do know about these basics. The masses, the elites, the C.P.A.'s or the lawyers are ignorant in this matter. They did not have a chance to learn about American Jews past and present. Even the Association of American Olim, or the various representatives of American Jewish organizations in Israel have not launched an educational systematic campaign in order to challenge the ignorance. As we know, Israel's media does not discuss, methodically, the rainbow of Diaspora's issues and problem.

Indeed, a paradoxical absurdity has been growing in Israel: While the process of Americanization is on the march, the will to learn about Jews or about American affairs, per se, is very limited. One of the victims of this paradox is an Israeli military officer, namely Gambiel Peretz. Recently, this Israeli fighter gave a lecture to 60 soldiers in his military camp. In the discussion that followed the lecture, some female soldiers argued that there are some elements in the Jewish Halacha which tend to cause a certain discrimination against women. When Gambiel Peretz was challenged by a female soldier with the approach of the conservative movement to this issue, he said: "I do not care about the reform Jews or their followers because I do not view them as Jews at all." When two female soldiers protested against Peretz' remark, he went on and said that the reform and the conservative movements caused the waves of assimilation in this country and that from his vantage point, they are responsible for a damage to the Jewish nation which is worse than...the Holocaust!

The headline in Yediot Ahronot, Israel's daily, was: "An Israeli Army (Zahal) Officer: "The reform movement is worse than the Nazis." It was a big scandal. Many protested against officer Peretz: Rabbi Ehud Bendel, Chairman of the Conservative movement, Rabbi Moti Rotem, chairman of the Reform movement in Israel, and Yossi Sarid, Israel's minister of education.

The bottom line: The army's Chief Commander for education, Gen. Eliezer Stern, who investigated the issue, decided to fire Peretz from his military position. Stern also said that a person with views like Peretz should not even be accepted to the officer military school. Peretz is a victim of ignorance. He refused to apologize and also argued that the Nazis killed only six million Jews and the reform movement 'killed' 8 million Jews. For God's sake, where did he find these Jewish American statistics?

Ignorance? Mr. Sarid, the education minister, should promote a project of Diaspora education in schools and in the media, as well.

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