The Committee for Government Review in the Knesset dealt this past Tuesday with MK Rabbi Gafni's proposal to submit to the Attorney General a request for the investigation of the legal aspects of the issue of budgetary and political discrimination against the yeshiva world.
This aroused the supportive attack of the chairman of the committee, MK Amnon Cohen of Shas, against the members of Habayit Hayehudi party in which he expressed his pain over "the insufferable leniency of those purporting to share mutual values while abandoning the yeshiva world for an ephemeral `pot of lentils.' Habayit Hayehudi, defining itself as a religious party, voted for the budget, adding insult to injury in creating discrimination towards `the poor man's [proverbial] sheep' whereby the remaining budget is divided inequitably among the body of yeshiva students, but is apportioned differently to yeshiva students of national-religious leaning and standard yeshiva students under the claim that Torah study must only be encouraged for those who support army service."
Rabbi Gafni, who has appealed to the Attorney General on the matter, stressed that, "the budget presented to the Knesset reflected a policy of calculated budgetary discrimination against the Torah world in a deliberate goal of cutbacks to the Department for Torah Institutions to a 45% level. This cutback is very painful, especially due to the severance it represents towards the traditions of the Jewish people whose very historic survival has been preserved through Torah study throughout its countries of exile."
He further noted that in the course of the discussion over the budget, the various media publicized statements of top members of the Coalition obligating themselves not to strike at the Hesder institutions. "These are illegal commitments which blatantly contradict the rules of equal government support and are especially provocative when issuing from the mouths of those bearing public official positions while blatantly and publicly flouting the law."
He further stated, "The Hesder institutions are supported by both the Education and Defense ministries, constituting an illegal double overlapping funding." According to him, the Defense Ministry had already approved said support for this year, circumventing the Knesset Financial Committee — even before the national budget was approved.
The issues were referred by the committee to the State Comptroller for further investigation.
The Chareidi Child
In a discussion which took place this past Monday in the Knesset Education Committee on the subject of, "Disparity in the Base of Study Hours in the School Curriculum and their Budgetary Reflection for the Chareidi Sector," MK Rabbi Yaakov Asher demanded that a true assessment be made of what chareidi education is eligible to receive, not according to the discriminatory standard of evaluation used today.
"You take a child whom you purport to transform to a more `enlightened' one, in your view, but unsuccessfully, because it negates his value system, and in the end, you cause him to learn less of those necessary skills which enable him to mature successfully." He further stated that "when you speak of all kinds of regulations, it is important to note that a child is a child and only afterwards can you deal with him or why his parents sent him to a particular institution and only then give him a budgetary allowance of one sum or another. The starting base must be equal, however, and one must not allow technical aspects to determine that base. At the end of the day, you must review what a child is receiving in a particular school and what another child receives elsewhere, before you begin dealing with cuts due to the government Core `enrichment' curriculum which is or is not implemented.
"According to my understanding, we find ourselves in a period where instead of trying to equalize the harsh disparity prevalent in the country, without taking only the chareidi public into consideration, you precisely choose to sacrifice that public at the stake of cutbacks and decrees. So you come and claim that because you are not officially recognized and because you are not prepared, due to ideological reasons — and not because on elitist grounds like the School for Democracy, we want to separate your child from others. We stand on our religious grounds while you flog him with the strongest of your whips."
Beit Shemesh Elections
The MKs of United Torah Judaism (UTJ) protested this Monday to the Interior Committee against a discussion involving "suspected foul play in the local Beit Shemesh elections." They claimed that the committee has thus joined the campaign of besmirching the chareidi public and subsequently, there are people in Beit Shemesh who are dissatisfied with the democratic results of the elections which took place there in which Rabbi Moshe Abutbul was elected to his second mayoral term.
Arrests were made on the day of the elections of several people suspected of voting fraud. However the scope of the suspicions is far smaller than the margin of victory of Rabbi Abutbul. There were other areas where far more extensive voting fraud has been suspected, but the Knesset has not dealt with them since, accuse the UTJ MKs, those suspected of the fraud are associated with Coalition parties.
Mayor Rabbi Moshe Abutbul said that in his opinion, the residents expressed their confidence in him for the second time. He was pained over the suggestion that perhaps there were occasional irregularities but stressed that he now expects that all the different political factions in the city will unite in a strong coalition for the benefit of all.
More Personal Status Laws
Minister of Justice Livni declared this Monday in the Knesset plenum that she intends to promote personal status legislation that will have the effect of destroying the Jewish character of the State of Israel.
In a reply to a no-confidence proposal presented by Shas, she emphasized that in the wake of the anti-religious legislation presented in the Knesset, "I intend to continue to lay on the table such legislation which deals with, in my opinion, Jewish tradition as I understand it. In this present government, I will continue to promote such legislation which I believe can benefit the citizens of the State of Israel who wish to feel connected to the heritage and yet feel estranged from it. I will do what I can to lighten the process of conversion. I will work to advance easier marriage processes or joint `marriage' partnerships etc., whatever you wish to call these."
MK Yachimovitz, leader of the Labor Party, expressed her opinion on civil marriage in Israel: "The Labor Party proposed this week a bill for civil marriage in Israel. This law will open a new channel for marriage, altogether parallel to the rabbinical procedure, and which will allow civil marriage for all citizens, not only for those prohibited marriage by the Orthodox Halacha. I am certain that Treasury Minister Yair Lapid, together with Justice Minister Livni and MK Zahava Galon, my coalition partners, will unite behind me in supporting this initiative of civil marriage."