A number of mikvo'os face the threat of closure
because they lack money to pay for heating fuel, and remain
in operation only through the efforts of the National Center
for Family Purity, a private charity, which delivers fuel to
The plight of the mikvo'os was raised in the Knesset
plenum session by MK Rabbi Yaakov Litzman, who claimed that
mikvo'os should be funded by the government, not a non-
"I have been contacted from several locations through the
Center for Family Purity regarding paying for diesel fuel,"
said Rabbi Litzman. "Doesn't the government realize that
maintaining mikvehs is of utmost importance? Aren't
renovations of mikvehs in peripheral areas an
Rabbi Litzman went on to say that he knows there was funding
for mikveh upkeep and it was transferred to the
Finance Ministry as part of regulation changes by the
minister holding the religious services portfolio, Yitzchak
Cohen. He noted that he would not go into the matter of the
changes in regulations, but clearly the current situation
cannot continue. "The Center for Family Purity — and I
saw this with my own eyes — pays for diesel fuel for
various types of places, and it shouldn't be like that. All
of the diesel costs for mikvehs must be paid by the
He also complained about the dismal situation at the
religious councils, where salaries are not getting paid,
citing the religious council of Jerusalem as an example.
There salaries are not being paid because there is no money
available. "How long will this go on? When will the
government come to understand that religious council workers
are like all other employees and deserve to receive a salary
at the end of the month?"
Minister Yitzchak Cohen said in reply that his ministry
recently completed renovations at almost 350 mikvo'os,
after years of neglect. "We budgeted NIS 41 million [$10.5
million] to refurbish these mikvehs, which were in
Regarding the matter of diesel fuel, Cohen claimed there is
no fuel problem at any mikveh in the country.
"Furthermore, we set up a 24-hour-a-day hotline to prevent a
situation in which a mikveh is closed, chas
vecholiloh, regardless of its location. If there's a
problem at a mikveh, on the door is [the phone number
of] a 24-hour hotline and an immediate response is
Minister Cohen reported that in addition to the NIS 41
million earmarked for renovations, "we also budgeted almost
NIS 100 million [$25.7 million] for the construction of new
mikvaot and botei knesset."
Regarding unpaid salaries at the religious councils, he
claimed that as long as the budgeting method is such that the
local authority provides 60 percent of religious council
funding and the government provides only 40 percent, the
problems will persist. He said the government pays all the
funding it is obligated to pay, while the local authorities
do not. Of the 133 religious councils there are acute
problems at 20, he said.
"Jerusalem has gone through a very difficult period," said
Minister Cohen. "Boruch Hashem there's a new religious
council head there. He took up the post recently and is
preparing a recovery plan. There's an agreement with the
Finance Ministry that as soon as he finishes preparing the
recovery plan [interim funding] will be funneled into the
account immediately. For now the employees are doing a work
slowdown, but have not shut down the council. Jerusalem is a
city where the mayor, Rabbi Uri Lupoliansky, is commendable.
He transfers his funds on time."