Chareidi representatives from all over the country bemoan the
injustice of unfair distribution of monetary and other
resources on the part of municipalities and local councils
towards the chareidi sector, especially in all that pertains
to Torah institutions. Sometimes an outcry is heard from one
particular town or settlement, but in general, life goes
In the city of Ashdod, which boasts the country's third
largest chareidi community, directors of Torah and
chinuch institutions have experienced appalling
deprivation at the hands of the municipality for many years.
This time, however, they have decided to join together to
seriously confront the issue.
An interesting development in the struggle was recorded Last
week when Ashdod mayor Tzvi Tzilker wrote a reply to the
representative of the Institution Directors, Attorney Avrohom
Weinroth. The letter speaks for itself. However, before
disclosing its contents, let us describe the chain of events
which led to this development.
A number of months ago, directors of the Torah institutions
of Ashdod founded the Forum of Ashdod Chareidi Institutions,
uniting representatives from all circles of local chareidi
Jewry. At an emergency meeting of the Forum, it was decided
to launch a frontal battle against the Ashdod Municipality
due to the appalling deprivation of the chareidi sector of
the city. At the meeting it was noted that the
intensification of the struggle is a result of long term
efforts by directors of city chareidi institutions to end
discrimination against the chareidi sector, efforts which
until now had been fruitless.
More than a year ago when the city budget for 1998 was
presented, directors of Torah institutions lodged a protest.
Their claims were rejected however, and the mayor denied that
there was any discrimination in the city.
Directors of the Torah institutions then decided to conduct a
professional investigation of the issue to prove their point.
Accountant Rabbi Moshe Bibleh undertook this mission on a
voluntary basis with great dedication, his sole purpose being
to aid Ashdod's Torah and chinuch institutions.
The results of this comprehensive investigation, analyzing
the Municipal budget for 1999, were published in a pamphlet
entitled, "A Comparative Report: Education, Cultural
Subsidizes in the Ashdod Municipality By Sectors." The jam-
packed pamphlet relates to support for education and culture
which the Municipality grants to the general population,
analyzing and comparing funds directed to the
mamlachti (general) and mamlachti dati
(national religious) schools in the city, as well as to the
In a lengthy chapter dealing with Municipal education
subsidies, the amount of classrooms in the three sectors are
displayed with graphs showing the number of children in
kindergartens and elementary schools. Another graph reflects
the situation of the students and classrooms throughout the
The report enumerates the precise incomes and expenses of the
Municipality for education. From all this we see that each
student in mamlachti and mamlachti dati schools
receives 1238 NIS a month from the city, while a student in
the chareidi network receives only NIS 121, a proportion of
more than 10:1.
This appalling discrimination is also evident in the cultural
budgets. The culture budget for the overall population is NIS
117 per capita, while that for the chareidi sector is NIS 24
per capita. The discrepancy is even greater when we study the
cultural allotments for students. A student in the general
sector receives NIS 972 a year, while a chareidi student
receives only NIS 77, a proportion of more than 12:1.
A Terrible Injustice
An additional graph discloses the following information: In
the overall educational system, 58 percent of city students
study in mamlachti schools; 18 percent in mamlachti
dati and 24 percent in the chareidi schools.
Mamlachti and mamlachti dati schools receive 97
percent of the budget; chareidi schools have to survive with
only the remaining 3 percent.
The Culture Clause of the budget states that the general
(read: secular) population constitutes 82 percent of the
population, while the chareidi sector constitutes 18 percent.
However, the general sector receives 98 percent of the
cultural funds, while the chareidi sector receives only 2
The pamphlet was presented to Mayor Tzvi Tzilker and top
ranking officials in the Municipality in order to prove that
the claims of the Forum of Chareidi Institutions and UTJ City
Council representatives are, indeed, justified.
At the meeting with the mayor attended by the representatives
of the Forum, Tzilker was at first shocked by the report. No
one attempted to deny the shocking statistics. The mayor even
asked the chareidim how they can possibly function under such
conditions. At the end of the meeting, Tzilker said that he
would examine the claims and try to find ways to correct the
terrible injustices perpetrated against the city's chareidi
However, in a letter of response that he later sent, he was
unrepentant and even defiant. "The ways of the chinuch
chareidi, at both the municipal and the national levels, are
mysterious," he wrote. "There was never any complaints about
discrimination among the institutions we run. . . . I have no
doubt that if the chareidi educational system were run in the
manner to which we are accustomed, there would be big
savings." He said that the city is not obligated to fund the
special programs that chareidi schools run.
The chareidi educators responded that this was just
distracting demagoguery. They were not asking for funding for
the extra hours of learning and so on, but just for a fair
share of the budget for basic education that they provide.
The Forum has hired an attorney and they vow to pursue the
issue until justice is done. They note that the mayor's
letter said nothing about the budget for culture that is as
lopsided as the education budget.