"No other sector in the State of Israel in any government
ministry is subject to as much abuse as the chareidi sector
and Torah institutions. On every issue and every month there
is some new decree," MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni remonstrated during
a Knesset plenum following a question presented by Deputy
Minister of Religious Affairs Rabbi Yitzhak Levy (Mafdal)
regarding the frequent delays in transferring budget
allocations to Torah institutions.
When MK Gafni asked why the yeshivas have yet to receive
their budget allocations this month Levy avoided the
question, saying, "The Ministry is now without a director-
general. I hope his appointment will be approved within a few
days and then we will be able to distribute payments to the
yeshivas before the month is over. If not, we will distribute
payments twice next month."
Rabbi Levy's claim that previous delays in transferring
yeshiva allocations were due to failures to enter data were
valid for March-April, but since then all institutions have
been entered and the Ministry has been paying the
institutions in full, except for those whose allocations were
withheld for various reasons.
Dissatisfied with Rabbi Levy's reply Rabbi Gafni said, "I
have a feeling -- not based on intuition but on fact -- that
the Finance Ministry has simply been constantly delaying the
yeshiva budget for whatever reason they could find." Based on
Finance Ministry directives the Ministry of Religious Affairs
sent avreichim to the Department of Income Tax to get
proof they do not work and that Torasam umnusom, but
when they requested written confirmation they were informed
that the Religious Affairs Ministry had issued instructions
not to provide documentation.
"I have [seen] many cases in which the allocations are
delayed for 4-5 months. I have also [seen] letters of
apology, which are of no help, and to this day after 4 or 5
months they have still not received the funding. Regarding
data entry, there were institutions that did not receive
their funding for two months because they failed to enter the
data," complained Rabbi Gafni.
Later Rabbi Gafni acknowledged the existence of problems with
certain institutions and the need to deal with these
problems. "But I am talking about hundreds of institutions
that present no problem and they do not receive their budget
allocations," he added. "They are simply collapsing."
In his response Levy said the Religious Affairs Ministry has
always had a practice of not transferring funds to any
yeshiva until the data is entered. "My decision was to
transfer the money to the half of the yeshivas where the data
had been entered rather than withholding everybody's
payments." Yet "the general atmosphere fits your
description," he admitted to MK Gafni. "Every month we make
concerted efforts to pay the institutions so they can
continue to exist and merely survive."
Rabbi Levy also said the difficult problems with the
Religious Affairs Ministry and its functioning can be
attributed to the dismantling process, which has been
officially underway for a year but has not been executed.
"The Civil Service Commission has not permitted tenders to be
issued and has not approved standards and rankings [for civil
service positions], then along comes the Finance [Ministry]
saying the [Religious Affairs] Ministry is being dismantled
anyway, so we are not going to fund anything."
Last week Rabbi Gafni demanded House Committee Chairman MK
Roni Brown (Likud) call an emergency committee meeting in
response to the government's failure -- in violation of the
law -- to inform the Knesset of the NIS 123 million in
discretionary funds granted to Shinui as part of the economic
"Tomi Lapid announced he received NIS 123 million from the
government, thereby resurrecting the long-dead system of
special funding and perhaps even worse," Rabbi Gafni told
Brown. "It is inconceivable for money to be distributed
without Knesset [approval]. The act of hiding the agreement
between the government and Shinui casts doubt on the legality
of the entire vote on the economic decrees since the law
requires every agreement to be tabled in the Knesset before
Rabbi Gafni also condemned Shinui during the plenum for
reviving practices abandoned years ago. "The government
deceived us. This was a major act of fraud and deceit. There
was an agreement with Shinui to take money from single-parent
families, from the elderly and from the handicapped and to
give it to the Shinui Party to be handed out as it sees fit.
Like once upon a time in the Dark Ages. Or like what takes
place today in Third- World countries and dictatorships where
the ruling power, or whoever is close to the ruling power,
does as he pleases with [the people's] money."