Israel’s Education Minister Naftali Bennett this week stressed that the Bible and Jewish faith are the most important topics children learn in school.
Bennett, himself a religious Jew, previously led a campaign to force religious Jewish schools to teach core subjects like math and science if they wanted to receive government funding.
That demand was dropped several months ago as a result of pressure from ultra-Orthodox parties in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition.
Speaking at an education event on Monday, Bennett clarified that his desire to see religious children learn core subjects was in no way meant to diminish the importance of biblical studies.
“Learning about Judaism and excellence in the subject is more important in my eyes than mathematics and the sciences,” he said. “Even though [Israel] is a high-tech superpower, an exporter of knowledge and innovation to the world, we must [also] be a spiritual superpower and export spiritual knowledge to the world.”
Bennett reminded Israelis that their primary mandate was “to be a light to the nations. ‘For out of Zion shall go forth Torah and the word of God from Jerusalem.’”
Defending his remarks a day later, Bennett was adamant that “it is not enough to be solely the nation of the startup. We must also be the people of the Bible.”
At the start of the current school year two weeks ago, Netanyahu similarly called on young students across Israel to study the Bible.
“Study of the Bible,” Netanyahu admonished. “This is the basis for why we are here, why we have returned here, why we stay here.”