Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

23 Tammuz 5763 - July 23, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











MK Gafni: Chareidim Abused More Than Anyone Else
by Eliezer Rauchberger

"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 plan.

"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 the vote."

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."


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