"The fact that thousands of families of religious council and
local authority workers have remained without pay and the
State has refrained from attending to the matter is a crime,"
said Knesset Interior Committee Chairman Yuri Stern (HaIchud
HaLeumi) on Sunday, referring to the failure to pay religious
council workers, which has brought religious services in the
country to the verge of collapse.
In a committee meeting to discuss the stoppage of religious
services in the country, Stern expressed concern that
Israelis and many tourists who come to Eretz Yisroel for the
Pesach holiday would remain without kashrus for Pesach if
another strike is declared by those in charge of religious
services, thereby stopping kashrus services in hotels. "This
would do very serious harm to domestic and foreign tourism,"
Rav Yehuda Landau, head of the marriage department at the Tel
Aviv Rabbinate, said that during the strike most religious
services were discontinued--marriage registration, issuing
marriage licenses and marital status certificates, and
shechitoh was brought to a complete halt. "If we are
forced to do so we will completely stop supervision over
hotels and poultry shechitoh," he warned, saying some
workers are on the brink of hunger and have begun going to
soup kitchens. Workers have been thrown out of their homes
and some cannot provide food and clothing for their
HaRav Dovid Shapira, rov of Jerusalem's Beit Hakerem
neighborhood, said, "After the state's 55 years of existence
we did not believe we would reach such a horrible situation
as this in which we will be forced to fight for Jewish life
and the existence of religious services."
MK Nisan Slomiansky (NRP) said the State is supposed to
transfer NIS 110 million to the religious councils, but this
amount would not solve the problem since the amount owed for
back pay alone comes to NIS 160 million. After recovery
programs, money is supposed to be channeled to the religious
councils, but so far there has been no recovery program. He
also says provisions must be made to insure that money
transferred to the religious councils goes towards paying
back wages and not to cover other debts.
MK Rabbi Yaakov Litzman said the problem of the religious
councils is easily solved. "If MKs Nisan Slomiansky of the
NRP and Michael Nudelman of HaIchud HaLeumi, as members of
the Finance Committee representing the coalition, declare
they will not support any budget transfer requested by the
Finance Ministry until the religious workers are paid, the
problem would be solved."
Histadrut representative Shlomo Stern said the Histadrut will
not sign any recovery program without prior consultation.
Mr. Meir Shpiegler, former Religious Ministry Director-
General, said the government made a decision to close the
ministry without considering the repercussions. He says the
ministry is currently working on defining which religious
services will be made available.