Following a comprehensive examination of the booklet
outlining the Finance Ministry's proposed economic decrees,
MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni revealed last week that the proposed
budget cut for the Religious Affairs Ministry would leave
only NIS 134 million ($29 million) for Torah institutions.
The position paper Rabbi Gafni produced said the budget for
Torah institutions in 2002 stood at NIS 1.027 billion ($220
million). In the current 2003 budget, base funding was
reduced to NIS 846 million ($181 million), along with NIS 40
million ($9 million) in reserve funding.
The Finance Ministry's economic plan is designed to cut
hundreds of millions of shekels from the Torah institutions
budget starting from this already reduced level.
First, the across-the-board reductions as applied to
Religious Affairs Ministry budget allocations, which will
come completely out of funding for yeshivas and not other
religious services, would slice away NIS 123 million ($26
million) leaving only NIS 763 million. Another paragraph in
the Finance Ministry plan defines the yeshiva budget as
financial support (and not part of the regular budget), which
would result in a further reduction of 10 percent or NIS 76
million ($16 million), leaving NIS 686,700.
Based on another paragraph, NIS 103 million ($22 million)
representing funding for yeshiva students from abroad will be
cut, bringing it down to NIS 587,700. Discontinuing payments
for the top age category (16-18) and the middle grades (14-
16) due to "double allocations" from the Ministry of
Education and the Ministry of Religions (which was held to be
illegal for yeshivas though not for others) would eliminate
another NIS 170 million ($36 million), leaving NIS 413,700
for next year.
In another arbitrary and outrageous decision, the Finance
Ministry has determined that the 30,465 kollel
talmidim over the age of 27 will receive none of the NIS
5,400 per year they currently receive, which would cut
another NIS 165 million ($35 million) from the Ministry
budget. Likewise the decision to cut funding for 18,566
talmidim ages 22-27, who until now received NIS 5400
and now will receive only NIS 2,700 per year per
talmid, will trim away another NIS 50 million ($11
million). At the point the total Torah budget is down to NIS
199,189 million, but that is not yet the end of it.
Yet another paragraph discontinues funding for institutions
with fewer than 100 talmidim, a definition that
applies to 25 percent of all institutions. This curtailment
would reduce the budget by NIS 50 million ($11 million).
Rabbi Gafni notes that tightening various eligibility
criteria would result in a further reduction of 10 percent or
NIS 15 million ($3 million). Following this long list of
reductions only NIS 134 million or 13 percent of the original
Ministry budget would remain.
Rabbi Gafni notes that most of the government support goes
for faculty and staff salaries but is nonetheless defined as
support for students which amplifies the cuts. Also he notes
that support for yeshiva students from abroad is being
eliminated but support for university students from abroad is
"A reduction of 50 percent in the 22-27 age category and the
total elimination of allocations for talmidim over the
age of 27 represents an ideological attempt at coercion,
demanding a change in the way of life of bnei Torah
through an economic blow," writes Rabbi Gafni in his position
paper. He also notes that the budgets for Torah institutions
have long been disbursed under the strictest supervision of
any allocation by the Israeli government, with no
On the issue of children's allowances Rabbi Gafni points out
that a typical family with eight children stands to see its
monthly payments reduced from NIS 4,803 in December 2001 to
NIS 1,152 in January 2006. This 76 percent cut in support
adds up to NIS 43,812 ($9,400) a year.