The government on Sunday gave the go-ahead to the Religious Services Ministry to establish the "Jewish Identity Administration," an ambitious new initiative meant to foster a stronger connection to national Jewish heritage among Israelis.
The new, 5-million-shekel ($1.4-million) initiative was one of Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett's demands for joining the government coalition.
The ministry said the purpose of the administration was to "raise awareness of and identification with the basic components of our national Jewish heritage among Israelis."
Former Chief Military Rabbi Brig. Gen. (res.) Avichai Rontzki would head the administration. Rontzki, a resident of Itamar in Samaria, is a controversial figure to lead the new administration as he has come under criticism for being stridently nationalistic, and it is not clear how much of a political bent the new administration will have in its activities and the materials it produces.
Support for the initiative was not government-wide.
Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid called on the Religious Services Ministry to ensure that "all Jewish streams" would be fairly represented in the administration, asking the government to include the Reform and Conservative movements.
Hatnuah Chairwoman Tzipi Livni derided the initiative, calling it a political tool for Habayit Hayehudi -- the party that Religious Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett chairs.
"This is a political decision that leaves a wide-open door for Habayit Hayehudi to reach schools and affect the education of my children according to their religious faith and political worldview."