Another court victory for Betzedek: A Haifa court ruled that
the "Gafni Law" must be enforced at all local authorities as
of the time of legislation and required the city of Kiryat
Yam to pay the tuition—including back tuition
payments—for local students who commute to Chinuch
Atzmai schools in Haifa, and to reimburse Betzedek for the
court costs and attorney fees.
The precedent-setting decision will prevent local authorities
around the country from charging students who commute to
Chinuch Atzmai institutions outside of their respective
places of residence. MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni's efforts to
rectify the situation through Knesset legislation resulted in
an amendment to the Mandatory Education Law, which took
effect in 5763. Known as the Gafni Law it requires local
authorities to pay tuition fees even for students who elect
to enroll at Chinuch Atzmai elementary schools and when all
upper-grade recognized but unofficial institutions are
Despite the legislation a few authorities claimed the law
does not obligate them since the Education Minister has yet
to draft regulations to implement the law. The regulations
were drafted recently following pressure by chareidi MKs, yet
a handful of authority heads continued to ignore the law,
forcing parents who insisted on chareidi education for their
children to shoulder substantial financial burdens.
The City of Kiryat Yam stood out for its refusal to pay
tuition fees for local girls enrolled at Bais Yaakov schools
in Haifa. The students' parents and Rabbi Gafni sought the
help of Attorney Rabbi Mordechai Green, director of Betzedek,
a legal assistance organization founded by Agudas Yisroel of
America. Rabbi Green agreed to take the case, which was of
great interest to the chareidi public.
The organization warned the City of Kiryat Yam in writing,
but city officials continued to disregard the Gafni Law. As a
result two and a half months ago Betzedek filed an
administrative petition against the City of Kiryat Yam and
its head, Attorney Shmuel Sisso, asking the court to enforce
the law. The organization stressed the great importance of
enrolling students in Chinuch Atzmai institutions, a matter
the court upheld in another case, saying private education
should be encouraged as well, as stated in the Gafni Law.
The petition emphasizes the financial damage incurred by the
students' parents and the infringement on their fundamental
rights as a result of the discriminatory policy.
In light of the legal advice obtained after learning of the
petition and its contents, the City of Kiryat Yam, the City
of Haifa and the District Prosecutor's Office, representing
the Education Minister, opened negotiating channels with
Betzedek. When its claims were refuted one after the next the
City agreed to pay, but only from the time the regulations
were introduced. Meanwhile Betzedek insisted the City pay not
only the regular fees due to the City of Haifa, but also that
it reimburse the students' parents in full.
The negotiations had their ups and downs but besiyata
deShmaya the resoluteness Betzedek displayed and the
rapidly approaching court date had their effect and
eventually the City of Kiryat Yam agreed to accept all of the
demands stated in the court petition.
A judge at the Haifa Court for Administrative Affairs issued
a ruling upholding all of the demands, requiring full payment
to the respective parties within 30 days. Although the ruling
only applies to Kiryat Yam other local authorities are now
expected to adhere to the Gafni Law in order to avoid the
heavy legal costs incurred by disregarding the law.