The battle against chareidim, which seemed to have calmed
down a bit between shooting in Gilo and lynches in Ramallah,
is raging once again. Who is on the warpath? None other that
Finance Minister Beige Shochat. The background? The Large
Family Law, proposed by MK Rabbi Shmuel Halpert of United
Torah Judaism and finally approved on 3 Cheshvan.
Shochat's words serve as a classic example of incitement.
"This money which they give large families -- half a billion
dollars, means less security. It means less money for
protective vests and helmets for policemen. It means fewer
medical personnel to treat the injured who were hurt as a
result of the situation."
But Mr. Shochat: Who are the main beneficiaries of this law?
All large families in the country. Israel, being a
democratic state, makes no distinction between Jewish and
Arab families. All citizens have equal rights. Achmad's ten
children in Umm El Faham (does that name sound familiar?
Yes, this is where rock throwers caused the main road to the
North of the country to be blocked for days at a time) will
receive the same benefits as Yosef Chaim's in Bnei Brak.
According to the law, children's allotments will be
significantly increased for families with five children or
more. In addition, the grant given to women immediately
after birth will be increased starting from the fifth birth
and on. According to the estimates of the Treasury, which
may err on the high side since the Treasury opposes the law,
this will involve a sum of half a billion shekels.
The Law was approved with a majority of 54 supporters to 49
opponents with one abstention.
Shochat says: "It is a contemptible, irresponsible and
corrupt deed. It is a disgrace that there is such a law on
the books of the State of Israel. . . . The law, which was
immorally approved, gives a special interest group in Israel
money which it doesn't deserve." Shochat has promised to do
his utmost to cancel the law as soon as possible, either as
a private law, or via the Arrangements Law which is passed
together with the budget. Chairman of the coalition Ofir
Pines has already placed a private proposal on the Knesset
agenda to cancel the law.
Rabbi Halpert has totally refuted Shochat's claims and said
that during recent years the allotments to families with
children have eroded by 50 percent. He said that the law
will not burden the State and not affect its budget;
implementation of the law, to take effect on January 2001,
will be totally subsidized by Bituach Leumi funds.
Even Shochat doesn't claim that there is no need to help
poor families. However he sees everything differently,
"The allotment for the first and second child should be
increased," he is convinced. "The children of working
people, and not of those who roam about in yeshivos --
people who pay taxes, should have been given."
Shochat continues: "Knesset member Livnat voted for the law,
even though she knows and admits that it's a `bad law.' She
should look in the mirror and puke. From whom is she taking
money? To whom is she giving it, just so that she can become
a government minister?"
Knesset member Livnat, who indeed voted for the law
(apparently against her will) strikes back: "Shochat," she
says, "as the Finance Minster was the man who abolished the
allotments for former soldiers for young people. The
government spends much more money today in order to survive.
This government which doesn't have a majority, should go
Rabbi Halpert: Tens of Thousand of Children are
Rabbi Shmuel Halpert, initiator of the law, explains what
led him to formulate it.
"It all began when I looked at some statistics. The numbers
showed that more than five hundred thousand children in
Israel are subsisting below the poverty level. These
statistics gave me no rest. Thus was the Large Family Law in
the Knesset launched. It wasn't easy. I had a tremendous
amount of siyato diShmayo," says Rabbi Halpert.
"It's hard for me to understand the opposition. If Minster
Shochat had only been a bit more sensitive to the social
aspect, he would have embraced the law and not attacked
Opposition in the Likud
Members of the Likud also don't exactly agree with the Large
Family Law. MK Dr. Yuval Steinitz presents his position and
"The Large Family Law constitutes the selling of the future
of all of us for a justified aim. I'm a Zionist. As a
Zionist I say that even if the aim to ease the plight of
poor, large families, is justified, this law should not have
been passed. The government should have searched for and
found other solutions for such a justified aim.
"The Palestinian Authority is trying to destroy the Jews
state by demographic means. Even Arafat made explicit
comments to that effect."
Aren't you exaggerating a bit?
No. It is possible, cholilo,, to destroy the Jewish
state by flooding it with Palestinians and Arabs. Such a
flooding is liable to occur if the right of return is
realized, and/or by an increasing birth rate. In addition,
the number of Palestinians in the country is growing due to
migration. All along, under our noses, Palestinians are
migrating to Israel.
"The goal of the Palestinians is to bring in 100,000 people,
and today over 40 thousand have penetrated Israel from
Egypt, Jordan and the other side of the Green Line. The new
law not only helps children who have already been born and
really need help, but also encourages Arab birth in the
Galil and the Negev."
The proposal was approved on Wednesday, 3 Cheshvan, for its
third reading. We asked MK Steinitz to explain the voting of
the Likud party.
"The chairman of the movement exerted pressure," he said.
"There was an attempt on his part to dictate the members of
the Likud how to vote, despite the fact that no meeting was
held on the issue and no decisions were made."
Can you specify how the members of the Likud
"Three members voted against and three left the plenum (MKs
Arens, Landau, and Tzippy Livni). I also voted against, as
did Meir Shetreet, Micky Eitan and Michael Kleiner."
Part of whom identify as anti-chareidi.
"Not me," Steinitz said. "My vote wasn't against the
chareidim. I am definitely in favor of them. I voted against
El Al flights on Shabbos, and I am on their side regarding
judicial activism. I think that the chareidim also have to
be against this law. On principal, I am not opposed to
sectorial considerations. I believe that the representative
of each sector should attend to the needs of its sector. But
when the result is the encouragement of Arab births, that is
dangerous for all of us.
"I sat with professors of demography and economy before the
vote," Steinitz says. "Something had to be done, that's for
sure. But money shouldn't be given directly to every child
who is born, but transferred by means of various
"The cost of implementing the law is significant," MK
Steinitz says. "It will also rise significantly, because it
will spur the Arab birth rate. We mustn't commit
MK Michael Kleiner also wishes to stress that his vote
against the law wasn't against the chareidim. He says that
he is very much favor of the chareidim, and that he always
says that the chareidim are Israel's demographic army. His
opposition to the law, he says, stems from the same reasons
as MK Steinitz.
Kleiner has a proposal: "The entire issue of help to large
Jewish families should be transferred to the Jewish Agency,
which should grant it massive assistance, and in that
manner, channel help to whoever needs it without endangering
Israel from a demographic aspect."
Rabbi Halpert: To Throw the Children into the Sea?
The sum total of the allotments for large families was
raised by a half a billion shekels. Due to the nature of the
issue, MK Rabbi Shmuel Halpert stood in the center of the
In reaction, he said: "I had no idea that such an important,
humanitarian law, providing a solution to tens of thousands
of hungry children and to 500,000 poor children would arouse
such responses. I ask Shochat: `What do you suggest? Throw
the children into the sea, or perhaps, nonetheless, to try
to improve their situation?'"
Implementing the Law Does Cost a Lot of Money
"Shochat, with his harsh words, did not relate to the fact
that the monthly child allotments have eroded by 50% -- a
direct result of his policies. He presents only part of the
picture in order to say that the law is corrupt. It is a law
that will benefit many families, freeing them from their
poverty. The Finance Minster should have been the one to
"Bituach Leumi has already been allocated this money. The
Treasury gave the Department for Children's Allotments 18
million shekels to cover the unemployment payments. To say
that this money is at the expense of the security is
Nonetheless, economists say that these allotments should
be given to the first children until the fourth one, because
when the first children are born the expenses of the family
"That's ridiculous," Rabbi Halpert says. "Just look at a
family which raises one or two children in comparison with
those who have seven or eight children. Which family has a
more difficult situation? The law is a simple solution which
doesn't cost the state money, and it helps tens of thousands
of children. Everyone should bless this important,
humanitarian, top notch law."
The Good News: What Each Family will Receive Under the
Rabbi Mayer Wisolvski, Rabbi Halpert's aide, reports the
following statistics: The grant that every woman receives
upon the birth of a child will be increased. According to
the new law, starting from the fifth child and on, the grant
will be doubled. This sum was NIS 2001, and will now be
doubled starting from the fifth child. From now on it will
constitute 40% of the average wage, as opposed to 20% until
In addition, the points of the allotment for five children
will be updated. This means that each child in the family,
starting from the fifth child, a will receive 240 shekels
more than the sum previously received.
Cabinet Votes to Postpone Implementation of Large
The government unanimously approved a proposal by Finance
Minister Avraham Shochat to postpone implementation of the
Large Families Bill to January 1, 2003. Shochat said he
intends to present the treasury's proposal for postponement
of the bill to the Knesset in the framework of the Economic
Arrangements Bill for 2001.