Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

19 Av 5761 - August 8, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Knesset Committee Discussed Discrimination Against Chareidi Education in Deprived Cities
by Eliezer Rauchberger

The Knesset Finance Committee has approved a request by the Finance Ministry to transfer NIS 25 million to ten cities with low economic levels. The purpose of the grant is to reduce the wide discrepancy between these and more economically successful cities.

The plan includes aid for Beit She'an, Ofakim, Dimona, Yeruchom, Netivot, Shderot, the Merchavim Regional Council, Emanuel, Kiryat Arba and Katzir-Charish.

During the deliberation, a sharp argument erupted between the Committee's chareidi representatives and the mayor of Ofakim, Yair Chazan, over the Committee's approach to the needs of chareidi residents of these cities.

Committee Chairman Rabbi Yaakov Litzman complained that the welfare and educational needs of chareidi residents of these cities are not subsidized. He said, "I have heard, behind the scenes, that the Education Ministry instructed the heads of development towns not to respond positively to demands of the chareidi sector. We, the religious representatives in the Committee, accuse the Education Ministry of ignoring our demands on issues such as transportation of children and subsidy of a long school day. We can't condone a situation in which chareidi residents of cities and development towns are treated like second-class citizens."

Chairman of the Ofakim City Council, Yair Chazan, claimed that the problem lies within the system. The needs of the chareidi sector must pass through the chareidi educational networks. Due to this, he said, questions arise regarding whether expenses should be covered by the City Council or by the chareidi network. The final result is that the residents suffer. He cited the chareidi kindergarten in Ofakim as an example, saying that if the kindergarten is run by the chareidi system, it is liable for ongoing expenses such as telephone and water. However, the chareidi network demands that the local council pay these expenses. "But what can we do? Those are the instructions of the Education Ministry. The Ministry includes ongoing expenses in its budget. We are not prepared to give the chareidi sector double subsidies."

Rabbi Gafni expressed his dismay at these remarks. "The payment is dependent on the decision of the mayor. You can return to Ofakim. You're disgracing it," he shouted at Yair Chazan. He then said that in Ofakim hundreds of chareidi children study in bomb shelters. "You're to blame for that. An agreement to change that situation was made a year and a half ago, and you didn't keep it."

Chazan, in turn, claimed that when the former Education Minister, Yossi Sarid, visited Ofakim, it was agreed that the Council would give the children much more than was required by law.

Rav Litzman retorted, "Will the religious and chareidi children in Ofakim get that too?"

Chazan: "Of course. There are two new chareidi schools in Ofakim, like Neve Yocheved."

At the end of the deliberation, Rabbi Litzman suggested that the Committee visit Ofakim in order to examine the various claims that had been voiced.


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