State budget time is invariably a time of anti-chareidi
incitement. Every shekel transferred to chareidim is
examined from all possible angles. The height to which this
incitement reaches is illustrated in a completely
preposterous article that appeared in the Israel daily
newspaper Ha'aretz a year and a half ago, purporting
to show how a chareidi family receives NIS 17,000 each month
from public coffers!
This writer made his own calculations. When the facts are
examined correctly, however, this totally false claim is
debunked. The truth is that the chareidi sector brings in far
more to the state treasury than any other sector -- much more
than newspaper reporters and judges.
A year and a half ago, a series of long, venomous articles
appeared in the morning daily Israeli newspaper
Ha'aretz under the heading, "Chareidim '98 -- the
Price." In the background of every article was a caricature
of a chareidi. (The author of this Yated article sent
a brief reaction to the editorial board of Ha'aretz,
but of course it was not published. The chareidi community
doesn't even have a right to react in the newspapers of the
champions of human rights and freedom of speech.)
I won't weary my readers with the full details of the
preposterous claims contained in the article and its
associated articles. In general, hate-filled articles against
the chareidi community have long become routine. The "data"
and conclusions of this series served as propaganda material
in Shinui and Meretz' incitement campaigns in the last
elections. Our sector has recently been in the forefront of
propaganda attempts in which the continuous chorus of
religion-haters has been sharpening its teeth in order to
overturn the chareidi community. For these reasons, I regard
it as my duty to inform the readers of the real statistics
and to expose the lies.
The main assertion of those die-hard, professional critics is
that the chareidi sector lives at the expense of the Israeli
taxpayer. For that reason, those chareidi-haters spread false
stories under the guise of "facts."
How Does an Avreich Earn NIS 17,000 a
The main article in the series was called, "The Avreich's
Basket contains NIS 17,000." Under this sensational heading
was a picture of a young avreich with a shopping cart.
The headline creates the impression that every avreich
has a net income of NIS 17,000 from State funds. The subtitle
reinforces this when it asks, "So why should they work?"
Ha'aretz apparently was relying upon the short memory
of its readers, hoping that they had forgotten that a number
of months previously the paper had published an article on
poverty in the chareidi sector. The title of that article,
"Investigation," was in bold type.
So that readers wouldn't harbor illusions about fortunes
waiting for them somewhere out yonder, I'll explain their
"ingenious" calculations in brief.
According to what they write, a family of 12, all of whose
children are under the age of 18, receives NIS 4,500 from the
National Insurance Institute (Bituach Leumi) in the form of
children's allotments. For two of its children under 18 who
live in dormitories the family receives NIS 3,100 a month
from the Treasury, in addition to an income increment of NIS
1000 if the wife does not work and NIS 650 which the husband
receives from his kollel from the Religious Affairs
Ministry. They also receive NIS 1000 more in the form of
reductions for kindergarten tuition and in health and
property tax: all of these add up to NIS 10,000.
If we then translate this sum into a gross amount; in other
words, if we add the National Insurance and the income taxes
which would be paid to the government by someone with an
income of NIS 10,000, we get another NIS 7000. Presto! We
have a sensational headline to plaster on a full page of
Ha'aretz and to use later on as a reliable "fact" to
goad the public into believing that the "basket" of an
avreich "really" contains NIS 17,000.
Let us not delude ourselves. Our answers will not convince
even one of those shoddy mudslingers. The truth is, that it
is really unwise to answer them. Such types -- disciples and
successors of religion-haters from all generations -- are
uninterested in answers. Their sole purpose is to stifle and
to defame the chareidi sector.
In the questions of the arba bonim, the phrase "ki
yish'olecho bincho" -- "when your son asks" -- is used in
reference to the chochom and the tam. Regarding
the rosho,, the Haggodo says, "ki yomru
beneichim" -- "your sons shall say," meaning that the
reshoim say but do not ask. Their intention is to
criticize, not to hear answers. As a result, there is no
point in answering them: anyway, they won't accept the truth.
What we must do is "dull their teeth."
The Lie Behind the Statistics
However, in order to know how to respond to people who are
exposed to incitement, so that we ourselves won't think that
there is substance to their remarks, we must dwell on some of
a) Transforming the sum from net to gross in this case
constitutes not only ignorance of arithmetic, but also
foolishness. It is difficult to believe that a self-
respecting newspaper could permit itself to publicize such
silliness. It is a financial maneuver whose only purpose is
to inflate the numbers to make them sound worse. The exercise
was to find out about the income of chareidi families, and to
include taxes that they might have paid is sheer legerdemain.
They do not benefit in any way from those taxes that they did
not pay. By eliminating this we have already solved nearly
half of the riddle and have lowered the avreich
"basket" of NIS 17,000 to 10,000.
b) None of the amounts (except for the kollel
allotment of NIS 650) are unique to the chareidi sector. They
apply to every large family. There is no law stating that it
is a criminal offense to raise children (at least not as this
article goes to print). Every citizen of the state whose
family meets the criteria of size is eligible for such
benefits. Actually, my dear friends in the Left, those who
benefit most from these allotments are the Arabs. To our good
fortune, the Arabs also receive Children's Allotments --
otherwise the government would have canceled them a long time
ago. Thanks to them, the differential payments between army
veterans and others was at least partially reduced.
c) Those who benefit from funds given to dormitories are
mainly secular agricultural schools, such as Kfar Hayarok
with 252 students in the dormitory; Hadassah Neurim with 491
students in the dorm; Mevo'ot Yam: 592; Nir Ha'emek:740;
Keztinei Yam Acco: 407; Ben Shemen: 450, and others, as well
as the yeshivot tichoniyot and the ulpanot of
the Mafdal. Most chareidi boys don't attend yeshivos with
dormitories, and girls very rarely attend seminaries with
d) The "calculation" was based on the needs and income of a
family of 12, and relates to a situation in which both
husband and wife do not work and all of the children are
under 18. A third of the sum is based on 2 children under 18
in a dormitory. In other words, it relates to a very small
amount of families. In truth, few families have eight
children under 18, and no families have them for very long.
Even fewer have two in dormitories.
If we want to inflate the sums, it would be preferable to
bring an example from a family of 20 members, in which, lo
oleinu, one of the children was hurt in a traffic
accident and is eligible to numerous benefits. In such cases,
one could reach a sum of NIS 30,000.
Chilonim '99 -- the Price
Now let's figure out how much a secular citizen with four
children costs the government if two of his children study in
university and two in a vocational high school.
The two university students cost the state NIS 7000 per
month. The two high school children: NIS 2,500. The family
receives a National Insurance Institute allotment of NIS 500
for the children. If they are in a dorm, it costs the state
another NIS 3,100: together this adds up to NIS 13,100. This,
if translated into gross cost according to the method devised
by Ha'aretz, can be supporting material for a headline
shouting, "The Basket for the Secular: NIS 20,000." (The
statistics relate to the fiscal year 1998.)
The truth is that if we translate all of the benefits the
state gives its citizens into currency, such as a long school
day, extracurricular activities and clubs at the community
center, enrichment programs in school, participation in youth
movements, the national media, sports, museums, theaters,
National Insurance Institute allotments for children,
handicapped, the elderly and other benefits, we will really
arrive at a sum of NIS 20,000, or perhaps even more.
The cost of a student in the secular educational system is
much higher than that of a student in the Chinuch Atzmai; and
even higher than that of a talmud Torah (cheder)
student, since the government's participation in the
costs of those systems is far lower than its participation in
those of the secular schools, as we shall later explain.
It should be noted here that in 1998, every secular student
in the Israeli educational system cost the Israeli taxpayer
NIS 3500 per month, while the budget for a ben yeshiva
was only NIS 550 per month, and for an avreich: NIS
650. For every secular student, it was possible to support
six yeshiva students. The word "lie" is too delicate to
define the base slogan, "money for universities and not for
Let's examine the issue from an additional angle: The State
budget in `98 was NIS 207 billion. If we divide the budget
per capita, each citizen should receive NIS 3200 a month. If
we deduct expenses for defense and payment of the State's
debts as well as other nation-wide expenses, the amount that
each citizen should receive per month is NIS 1600, meaning
that the share of a family with 12 members should be NIS
However, in reality this calculation is not fully valid,
although it can give us a certain ballpark indication of a
reasonable amount. In other words, the sum of NIS 10,000 for
a family of 12 is quite reasonable.
Do the Chareidim Pay Taxes?
An additional claim made incessantly by the Leftist
propagandists is that the chareidi sector doesn't pay taxes
since the majority of the men study in kollel. The
answer to this claim is best explained in a detailed article
which was published in Ha'aretz, whose main points I
The State's income from taxes is derived from direct and
Direct tax (income tax, business, employers tax, etc.)
constitutes 51% of the overall taxes, while indirect taxes
(value added tax (VAT), purchase tax, fuel tax, etc.)
constitutes 49%. This information was taken from the report
of the Director of State Incomes from `95.
The chareidi taxpayer shares the burden of indirect taxes
equally with the secular. These are generally regressive
taxes on consumption, and apply to all consumers. Chareidim
consume, like everyone else.
To the abovementioned, we must add the State income from
Uncle Sam's annual aid at the expense of the American
taxpayer, as well as annuities from Germany and additional
grants from abroad. Add in incomes from land and other State
assets, which all citizens pay equally -- which account for
more than 10% of the national budget -- and the question is
trimmed even more.
Regarding direct taxes, i.e., income tax, there is a surprise
here, too. 75% of the income tax is paid by the upper tenth
of the economy (those with a high income of more than NIS
27,000 a month). In other words, 75% of the income the State
receives from its income tax comes from a limited, wealthy
group constituting only 10% of the taxpayers.
15% of the tax burden is paid by the ninth decile (those with
incomes of over NIS 17,000 but less than NIS 27,000), while
only 10% by the sixth, seventh and eighth deciles
50% of all the taxpayers -- secular as well as chareidi --
are under the income tax threshold altogether. This data does
not include children, the elderly or the unemployed.
And so, the relation between rich and poor also prevails in
the chareidi sector. There is no doubt that at least 10% of
the wealthy chareidim are included in the top decile, and
there are also many in the ninth decile.
Avreichim, who constitute a large part of the chareidi
sector, are simply a part of the 50% overall whose wages are
below the tax threshold. In addition, if we add to that
another 10% unemployed, the chareidi community is not
different from the national average.
Furthermore, the upper decile also includes investors from
abroad who have taxable income in Israel, a large percentage
of whom are chareidim. Nearly all local chareidi
entrepreneurs who belong to the top decile invest in Israel
to a very large extent. Precisely in the top decile which, as
we have said, provides 75% of the taxes, the share of the
chareidi sector, we suspect, is especially large.
The Hidden Cost of Taxes
Although it is correct arithmetically that those in higher
income deciles pay 60% of the taxes while 50% of the
taxpayers supposedly pay no income tax, this is not
absolutely correct in practice. Don't worry about a company
owner being forced to pay thousands of shekels to income tax.
The rich man will never lose: he will raise the prices of his
product so that the tax burden eventually falls on the
consumer. The high cost of living in Israel is what has led
to a situation in which the citizen pays direct taxes in an
For example, if a shirt costs a consumer NIS 100 in a store,
NIS 17 out of that is the value added sales tax (VAT). The
storekeeper buys the shirt at 60% of the remaining cost. The
markup is for profit and to cover costs, including income tax
and the National Insurance Institute payments for his
workers, as well as land property tax. The dealer takes the
10% intended for profit to cover his expenses. The wholesaler
sells the shirt for NIS 45, which includes expenditures on
tax (including those of the owner of the firm which pays 50%
in taxes), income tax, National Insurance, health tax and raw
materials. The bottom line is that if we claim that more than
50% of the cost of the shirt goes for taxes, we won't be far
If we continue calculating and realize that, while with
regard to income tax the rich pay much more because the tax
is progressively graduated, the situation is different with
regard to National Insurance Institute (Bituach Leumi)
payments. These payments are uniform and they are paid
starting from the first shekel. National Insurance Institute
payments also have an upper ceiling, while income tax has
only a bottom rate. They are paid by teachers, ramim,
melamdim: essentially every citizen. Even those who don't
work must pay the National Insurance Institute. The income of
the State from the National Insurance Institute collections
in 1998 was NIS 30 billion, constituting a third of the
overall direct tax.
In order to complete the picture we night add that the
chareidi buyer buys mainly products manufactured in Israel,
while his secular counterpart often buys costly products from
abroad. It is no wonder that the large companies in Israel
pursue the hechsherim mehudarim and respect the
demands of the chareidi sector, which constitutes an
especially large proportion of the Israeli market: much
larger than its ratio to the population. Therefore, even
though the basic salary of the chareidi worker is low, his
contribution to the overcall local economy is large.
In addition, the average Israeli spends a big chunk of his
salary on an annual trip abroad. It is enough to note that in
1998, three million Israelis traveled abroad. The chareidi,
on the other hand, spends his vacations in Israel. In
addition, thousands of chareidi tourists arrive in Israel
every year for long periods.
The Positive Contribution of
I beg the forgiveness of my readers and the editorial board
of the paper for mentioning that religion-hating politician
who, in the Shinui election campaign, talked about how the
secular consumer is forced to pay more because of the
chareidi hechsherim citing in particular dog food with
a hechsher (for Pesach to certify that it has no
chometz) and toilet paper (with a certification that
it is not made from sheimos).
But this is the place to say that from a purely commercial
aspect, the hechsherim bring about a reduction in
prices. Companies are not gemachim,and if they feel
that it is worth their while to invest in a chareidi
hechsher it is not for altruistic reasons, but because
they want to increase their sales in Israel and abroad which,
of course, results in the lowering of the cost of the product
due to economies of scale.
Surprisingly, even poor avreichim contribute to
economic growth, because this sector purchases so many items
secondhand, especially cars, thus enabling the wealthy to
exchange their cars at a faster rate. As far as electrical
appliances are concerned, the trade-in campaigns function on
the assumption that a person is unlikely to discard a good
product and buy a new one -- even a car. Without the used car
market, the new car market would suffer from a serious
If the issue is examined from a purely economic standpoint of
the "cost of the chareidi sector to the economy and social
infrastructure in Israel," as Ha'aretz states, the
chareidi community is the least costly and most effective
one. The chareidi sector is concentrated in a few cities in
relatively crowded conditions with large families, kein
yirbu. This results in tremendous savings of resources
and lower infrastructure costs.
The Torah world, from a purely economic standpoint,
constitutes an asset to the state's coffers and, ironically,
an avreich poring over his Torah studies directly
helps the Israeli economy in other ways, as we shall further
Some yeshiva students benefit from contributions from abroad,
which inject considerable foreign currency into the Israeli
economy. Many Torah institutions also bring in funds from
abroad, especially for capital improvements. In addition, the
thousands of students from abroad who come to study in
yeshivos in Israel support Israeli tourism and live on
foreign currency sent to them from home.
The main chareidi commercial branches, such as diamonds,
religious artifacts, esrogim, are primarily for Jews
from abroad, i.e., for export, and they also bring foreign
currency into the country.
The chareidi sector then brings in foreign currency to the
State's coffers and uses Israeli currency. In short,
chareidim are exemplary economic citizens.
Those Who Study Torah Eventually Work
The claim that yeshivos are not productive stems from total
ignorance. Students who fill the halls of the botei
medrash later officiate in rabbinical positions or as
shochtim, mohalim, sofrim, teachers, lecturers, and
many other positions. For comparison's sake, let us add that
the percentage of students in the Humanities Departments of
the country's universities in the year 5754 was 33%; in the
Social Science Departments, 26.9%. In other words, 60% of
these students study unproductive subjects.
Let us add that important observation that one sector in the
country which on the surface seems to belong to the upper
decile and to bear the tax burden, actually imposes a heavy
burden on the Israeli taxpayer. We are referring to
government workers with high salaries who, on the one hand
pay 50% income tax, while on the other hand all of their
money, including the taxes paid, comes from the state
treasury. Heading this group are the judges, whose basic
salary, without the many bonuses, reaches NIS 30,000-40,000 a
month (including Justice Elyagon who very publicly called the
entire chareidi sector "parasites").
In this sector, the chareidi community is persona non
grata. These jobs are reserved for a certain type of
people: from the left side of the map and on. This is the
case in the directorates of government companies as well as
in key job positions in other areas, in which the common
denominator is maximum income and minimum work. Were a
chareidi apply to such a job, the Ben Dror Committee would
immediately disqualify him. Afterwards, with feigned
innocence, they complain about the self-imposed poverty of
the chareidi sector.
In conclusion, for those who are confused by the numbers, let
us repeat: as far as indirect taxes are concerned which bring
in 49% of all State income, all citizens of the country share
an equal burden, chareidi and non-chareidi. As far as direct
taxes like the income tax, we maintain that the share of the
chareidim as a sector of Israeli society is even larger than
their proportion of the population, relatively speaking. We
also argued that every consumer, including yeshiva students,
really pays even many direct taxes in an indirect manner.
The Reporter Against Chareidim
The articles in Ha'aretz were written by its reporter
who specializes in chareidi issues, Shachar Ilan, who is
known for his animosity towards the chareidi sector. This is
another example of what we have said: a lack of knowledge of
the facts is not behind the incitement, because someone like
him does know the true facts. Hatred for everything sacred is
the true motive.
Whoever read the series of articles and saw the overall
headline which is composed in classic antisemitic style
("Chareidim `98, the Price") cannot help but discern the
hatred that emanates from it. Whoever composes such a
headline, and says that the monthly support of a supposedly
typical avreich is NIS 17,000, is not worthy of being
called a journalist, not even in Ha'aretz.
But more serious is the very premise that underlies the whole
series: that the cost of specifically a chareidi citizen to
the Israeli economy is an interesting and important public
issue. It presumes that we are some special class and that
every penny given to us may be questioned. The transparent
message behind this article is that the chareidi sector has
no rights, and that every shekel a chareidi resident receives
is really illegitimate extortion.
In general, a newspaper's economic reporter presents economic
information and its reporter for Jerusalem affairs reports on
events in Jerusalem.
However, instead of reporting to his readers about the
chareidi sector -- such as its monumental chessed
enterprises that are unparalleled in the entire world, its
peerless education, its large contented families, its
honesty, its care to return lost items, its meticulous
observance of the laws of loshon hora -- the reporter
for chareidi affairs of Ha'aretz spends his time
mudslinging. It would be proper to change that reporter's
title to "Reporter for Incitement and Defamation of
Without Bituach Leumi, 34% of the
Country Would be Below the Poverty Line
Without the Bituach Leumi grants, 34% of the Israel's
population would be under the poverty line. "The grants for
the handicapped, for the elderly and for children which the
Bituach Leumi provides, lower the amount of those under the
poverty line to only 16 percent," said the Director General
of the Bituach Leumi, Yochanan Shtesman, at a lecture at the
Commercial and Industrial Club in Tel Aviv.
Shtesman adds that today 80% of Israel's populace lives very
difficult lives, financially. "Most of the people suffer
heavy financial stress," he says.
Of the 112 thousand people who collect unemployment payments
today, only 11 thousand receive them for more than one
period. Therefore, in Shtesman's opinion, it isn't right to
say that in Israel there is chronic unemployment. Only 1500
people in the State of Israel receive unemployment annuities
for more than two periods.
Bituach Leumi collects about 8% of the gross national product
a year in its taxes.
There's a Law, but There's No
by E. Rauchberger
In 1992, the Budget Law that was passed declared that the
Chinuch Atzmai system must receive equal treatment in the
budget, and that they will receive what they deserve without
any discrimination whatsoever, according to the generally
accepted criteria of the entire educational system.
At a meeting of the Knesset Education Committee which took
place last week a number of very sad facts became clear which
prove -- for the umpteenth time -- that as far as chareidi
chinuch and chareidi children are concerned, no law or
amendment has any effect. The authorities will continue to
discriminate against them freely.
Rabbi Moshe Gafni related that on Sunday (14 Adar I) he
visited the southern town of Yerucham and met with the
chairman of the city council there, Motti Avisror. At the
meeting, Avisror showed him the summary of a discussion he
had with the Education Ministry about his requests for funds
to renovate and fix various educational institutions in the
Rabbi Gafni was shocked to learn that the Education Ministry
simply ignored the needs of the chareidi educational
institutions, and that it summarily absolved itself from its
responsibility for the buildings of these institutions.
So that there would be no mistake, and in order not to allow
the slightest chance that the head of the city council of
Yerucham would make a mistake or not understand clearly and
correctly the policy of Education Minister Yossi Sarid and
his office, the Minister very succinctly and unambiguously
summed up, in writing, the discussions with him. No one
should think that these instructions were given to the head
of the council in a conspiratorial whisper, or in a subtle
recommendation accompanied by a meaningful wink. Everything
was laid on the table for all to see. The Law of Equality may
be a law, but the summary of the deliberation proves that it
has not brought equality.
This is what the summary says: "The request to renovate
buildings and kindergartens will be examined . . .
Renovations for mamlachti dati were approved. The
needs of the united mamlachti schools have also been
approved. The Toras Moshe school belongs to the Chinuch
Atzmai network and therefore the Ministry will not fund the
renovations. Messilah Bo'arava belongs to the Chinuch Atzmai,
and is not the responsibility of the Minister in all that
relates to its buildings."
Rabbi Gafni was irate over this document which determines
that the obligation for equality in respect to the
institutions of the Chinuch Atzmai does not exist and called
it: "A criminal document."
At the same meeting of the Education Committee it also became
clear that not only are the chareidi educational institutions
of Yerucham deprived and discriminated against, but so are
the chareidi special education institutions. These
institutions, nationwide, require 10,000 classroom hours a
week under the Shiluv (Integration) program, however in
reality, as stated n the letter of the Education Minister to
Reuven Rivlin (Likud), they receive funds for only 3000
classroom hours of study due to "a lack of money," which
means that 7000 hours aren't funded, even though every
reasonable person understands the great importance and need
for such institutions.