Last week the government approved restoring the support
funding for avreichim over the age of 23 to the level
it was before a reduction last year by making it equal to the
amount received by their colleagues age 23 and under. The
decision reversed a policy that discriminated against many
heads of large families.
Prior to the Cabinet meeting, the issue drew public fire
after Labor ministers, particularly Interior Minister Ofir
Pines, demanded that the government not raise the issue
altogether. Government Secretary Yisrael Maimon noted that
the decision will not alter the overall amount of state
spending on students at Torah institutions. It just shifts
around the money.
After Rabbi MK Moshe Gafni urged the Labor ministers not to
oppose the decision the majority abstained, while Pines and
Simchon still voted against the change. All of the Likud
ministers voted in favor.
In a statement released following the Cabinet meeting, Maimon
explained the reasoning behind the decision. "The [previous]
government decision reduced the income for these families,
whose income was also reduced due to the cuts in Children's
The 40 percent slash in support for avreichim over the
age of 23 had been intended "to encourage avreichim to
enter the job market," yet it did not succeed in driving them
out of the beis medrash. Instead it merely exacerbated
the families' pressing financial circumstances.
The government still decided to encourage avreichim to
seek employment, but as in the past it can be expected that
such efforts will not influence the avreichim, who
will continue to engage in their learning despite the
There were reports that a considerable number of chareidi
women cannot find employment that they seek. Some take jobs
that are below their abilities and qualifications and some do
not find work at all.
Attorney Gilad Barnea, a prominent left-wing figure
representing students, issued threats this week to petition
the High Court to annul the decision. Several months ago
Barnea petitioned against "discrimination against [college]
students compared to yeshiva students." In a letter to Prime
Minister Sharon, Barnea said the recent decision "merely
serves as a substitute for Children's Allowances for the
chareidi sector, while discriminating against other children
in the State. Should the government approve the execution of
these moves it would be committing a flagrant and grave act
of discrimination among children."