Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

27 Sivan 5764 - June 16, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Bill to Exempt Botei Knesses from Lease Payments
By Betzalel Kahn

A large majority of the cabinet approved a bill that will exempt botei knesses from having to pay to lease the land from the Israel Lands Authority, rejecting a cabinet recommendation by a team of government ministers headed by Tommy Lapid not to pass the bill. Now the law can be brought before the Knesset for approval. The Cabinet debate highlighted the differences between those who actively oppose the Jewish religion and those who are merely indifferent.

A sharp debate raged between Prime Minister Sharon and Shinui ministers when Sharon attacked Lapid and his cohorts for their opposition to every bill associated with religious matters.

When the bill, an amendment to the Fundamental Budget Law, was submitted to the Knesset over six months ago, Sharon decided during a cabinet meeting to set up a ministerial commission to assess the law.

The commission, headed by Justice Minister Tommy Lapid (Shinui) and including Ehud Olmert and Meir Shitreet, only recently submitted its recommendations to reject the bill. The recommendations contained harsh words against Judaism and botei knesses in the State of Israel, which Minister Lapid said take up state lands.

The cabinet spent over an hour deliberating the issue last week. During the course of the discussion a cutting debate erupted between Sharon and Lapid, Poraz and Paritzky of Shinui and Ehud Olmert of the Likud, who joined together in opposing the law. "Today you give them an exemption from land lease and tomorrow you'll give them an exemption from electricity," shouted Minister Poraz. After a decision of this kind the government would have to grant the same exemption to mosques, Poraz added, but Sharon replied that mosques are not built on state lands.

One Shinui minister claimed discounts are given to botei knesses to allow them to hold seudas and celebrations at $30 a plate, to which Minister Shitreet replied, "As far as I know those who do hold celebrations in the beit knesset are not those who [spend] $30 per person, but the unfortunate who don't have money to hold the event in an events hall. Why do you envy all those who hold a simcha in a beit knesset?"

The Prime Minister also began to fume and lashed out at the Shinui ministers. "Every time a religious issue is tabled before the government you immediately stand up and shout. What do you have against Jews, Judaism and religion?" he asked angrily.

Offended by Sharon's remarks Minister Lapid denied that Shinui ministers are "haters of religion." The government ministers were surprised to see Minister Olmert fervently defending the stance taken by his fellow ministers from Shinui until the Prime Minister hushed him saying, "Don't interfere in this, let me handle matters as I see fit."

He then added a barb: "What's with you Olmert, that you've joined them?"

Eventually Sharon announced he was rejecting the commission's recommendations and that he was asking for the proposal to be approved. Sharon added that he was firm in his opinion that the bill should be passed. "And if I can assist this law or other laws to build or preserve batei knesset, may this be my reward."

At the end of the meeting the cabinet passed the bill with a majority of nine ministers versus Ministers Lapid, Poraz, Paritzky and Olmert.


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