Rabbi Aryeh Blitental, United Torah Jewry's representative on
the Haifa City Council, blocked a sharp cut in support for
religious institutions in Haifa. When Mayor Yonah Yahav
honored his request, Shinui city councilors objected
strongly, storming out of the City Finance Committee meeting
following the reduction of the cut.
The affair began when plans to carry out a drastic cut in
funding for yeshivas and kollelim as well as Torah-
based cultural funding became known. First Rabbi Blitental
turned to the rabbonim of the various kehillos in the
city to inform them of the problem. After receiving their
guidance he quickly brought the Mayor charts and a
presentation to demonstrate the ongoing discrimination
against the chareidi sector and the disregard for the basic
needs chareidi residents are entitled to as citizens with
The presentation proved that while all of the general
institutions showed slight reductions, funding for religious
institutions was severely curtailed. Mayor Yahav became
convinced this was indeed an instance of discrimination and
immediately ordered NIS 100,000 ($22,000) be restored. When
the matter was then brought before the Finance Committee for
approval a major drama unfolded.
Shinui representatives who had received the initial budget
documents expressed satisfaction over the slash in funding.
When they suddenly saw the Mayor had endeavored to diminish
the funding cuts for the yeshivas and kollelim, as
well as Torah-based cultural funds, their vociferous protests
"Where is there money to add to the yeshiva budget?" they
asked with demagogic defiance, intentionally overlooking the
original cut. Yonah Yahav did not respond to Shinui's
protests and passed the decision in the Finance Committee
with a clear majority. After the decision was accepted, the
Shinui representatives, including Deputy Mayor Tzvi Dahari,
objected to the decision, and stormed out.
Rabbi Blitental noted how Shinui follows a set pattern, based
solely on hate rather than any pertinent arguments. "They can
defend anything and increase funding for all of the various
associations as long as the chareidi sector and its needs are
thoroughly trampled over," he said.
According to Rabbi Blitental even Shinui saw the sharp cut
was illogical but they presented it in the local media as if
the municipality were increasing funding for chareidim. "This
is their way and I can only offer praise to Mayor Yonah Yahav
for his balanced approach to the arguments raised and his
awareness of the needs of the chareidi sector," he said.