UTJ's representatives in the Knesset have made important
gains for the entire religious community during deliberations
over the budget for the year 2000. As usual in the
parliamentary maneuvers leading up to final approval of the
State budget, all parties work to advance the issues that
they are interested in. After all, this is what their voters
sent them to the Knesset for.
Four-and-a-half months ago, UTJ's representatives to the
Knesset forwarded a detailed document to the Finance Minister
delineating all of the UTJ's vital needs for the new fiscal
year. This document covered all of topics included in former
Many of the clauses serve not only UTJ constituents, but also
constituents of other religious and chareidi parties, such as
Shas and Mafdal. UTJ has traditionally assumed responsibility
for those issues.
UTJ's Knesset representatives met four times last week with
the Finance Minister and his aides. These meetings were
attended by Knesset members Rabbi Meir Porush, Rabbi Avrohom
Ravitz, Rabbi Yaakov Litzman, Rabbi Moshe Gafni, and Rabbi
Shmuel Halpert, and their advisors, Rabbi Yehoshua Pollack,
and Rabbi Yaakov Gutterman, as well as by the secretary of
the party, Rabbi Amitai Shulman.
It should be noted that many of these items are normal and
accepted government support for things like basic education
that are generally included in the budget for most of the
country without the need for one party or another having to
"bargain" for them. In the case of the chareidi community,
basic funding must be specially won, and often the community
is then criticized for its "excessive demands" when the
amounts are added up. The following were agreed:
a) Yeshivos, kollelim and yeshivas ketanos: the
recommendations the Blumberg-Gavish Committees of two years
ago, which found a severe erosion in the budgets from the
Education Ministry, be implemented, and applied to the
students in these institutions.
b) Chinuch Atzmai: transportation for students and extra hour
study hours be approved.
c) Matan: this nonprofit organization which deals with the
special needs of new immigrants and children from poverty
stricken homes and children in residential facilities be
subsidized. This organization, the UTJ representatives
stressed, is in dire financial straits.
d) High Schools for Girls: the budgets will be increased
according to the real growth in the number of students.
e) Cultural organizations: subsidies be granted to
organizations which conduct shiurim and spread Torah
throughout the country.
e) Dormitories: that budgets, which come form the Labor and
Welfare ministries, be provided for students in institutions
with residential facilities, mainly yeshivos
f)Rental for Young Couples: the Housing Ministry will
continue to subsidize rentals of young couples for the first
three years after their marriage.
g) Elad Mazor: the grants in Elad Mazor will be extended for
four months to May 2000.
h) Classrooms for the chareidi sectors: additional subsidies
for the increasing of the number of classrooms for the entire
chareidi sector be given. The number of chareidi school
classrooms is way below Ministry of Education regulations,
but there was no capital budget.
i) Shemitta: that a budget for shemitta
observant farmers be instated.
j) Housing Grants: The Finance Minister promised UTJ that as
long as the government does not changed the national
preference regions which provide assistance and development
grants for housing, the mortgage banks will continue to grant
The document forwarded four-and-a-half months ago to the
Treasury included additional topics which UTJ thought should
be discussed, but due to the cuts in the State's budget, they
focused only on the abovementioned topics.
News of the achievements of the UTJ representatives in the
Knesset were warmly received in the Torah community.