Degel HaTorah representatives on the Beit Shemesh City
Council were demonstrably absent from a council meeting to
discuss the city's 2005 budget, claiming that the meeting was
illegal and the budget submitted for approval was tainted by
severe discrimination against the city's chareidi
Beit Shemesh Mayor Danny Vaknin has been waging a prolonged
battle against the chareidi public, notably through
discriminatory allocation of school facilities. For example a
solution has yet to be found for the students of Bais Yaakov
HaRamah after gedolei Yisroel instructed the school's
officials not to vacate the facility currently in use due to
concerns it would have a detrimental effect on the character
of the neighborhood. In addition, dozens of students at Ramat
Beit Shemesh Seminary were left with no classroom at all and
the municipality has done nothing to solve the problem.
Numerous other chareidi institutions also lack adequate
In the area of budget allocation as well the city has
discriminated against the chareidi sector for years. This
year 55 percent of the city's school-age children are
enrolled in chareidi institutions, yet at NIS 30 million the
general education system budget (not including teachers'
salaries) is 12 times the budget for chareidi schools.
The general education budget in Beit Shemesh includes funding
for computers, safety, janitors, educational initiatives,
various assessment tests and numerous other endeavors. In
contrast the NIS 2.5 million budget for the chareidi
education system is designated only for safety, insurance,
transportation, electricity, water and other bare essentials.
The municipality cancelled all city funding for chareidi
kindergartens (gan chova), phone budgets at other
kindergartens was cut and educational institutions housed in
portable structures and rented apartments do not receive a
single shekel from the city.
As a result, while enrollment in the chareidi education
system rose by hundreds of students this year the budget was
cut by NIS 300,000 shekels (12 percent). The city later
agreed to restore the original amount of NIS 2.8 million in
funding, but Degel HaTorah city councilmen say this still
constitutes a budget cut in real terms and not equal
Furthermore, as part of the city's recovery program the Mayor
had all of the municipality's chareidi staff workers
dismissed, effectively closing the Department for Chareidi
Education and the Department of Youth and Social Activities.
Meanwhile the property tax (arnona) was raised and tax
discounts for kollel families were reduced. In
combination, these various forms of budget discrimination
have resulted in financial difficulties for large families
and chareidi educational institutions.
At a routine city council meeting two weeks ago, Degel
HaTorah Councilmen Rabbi Moshe Montag and Rabbi Eliezer
Greenbaum made a motion to place on the agenda the issue of
the dismissal of the chareidi workers and the disparate
allocations of school facilities. Before the meeting, all of
the United Torah Jewry councilmen reached an agreement to
support the motion, but for unexplained reasons the Agudas
Yisroel representative, alone among the chareidi
representatives, did not. Several days later they found out
that the Agudas Yisroel representative had secretly reached a
surprising agreement with Mayor Danny Vaknin without the rest
of the party's knowledge or consent.
The next day Rabbi Greenbaum arrived at the plenum hall to
announce the meeting was illegal since his colleague, Rabbi
Montag, had not received adequate notice of the meeting as
required by law and therefore it must be reconvened ten days
later. The two also demanded an orderly meeting of the
Finance Committee be held in accordance with the law and not
just minutes before the city council meeting. A court suit
may be filed regarding this matter.