Last week MKs Rabbi Ravitz and Rabbi Moshe Gafni sharply
criticized the unbalanced use of State fiscal resources in
next year's proposed Budget in the realm of education, and
now inequities in other areas important to the Torah-
observant community were exposed in a Knesset Interior
Affairs Committee meeting.
Speaking in the Knesset plenum last week, Rabbi Ravitz said:
"The chareidi community and its educational systems currently
occupy a very low place in the Government's priorities. We
expect a trend which will result in change and equality. I
see the budget cuts, yet don't understand them."
Rabbi Ravitz expressed the hope that changes would be made in
time for the second and third readings of the Budget. He
said: "What interests me is not a shekel more or a shekel
less, but that the whole matter be done in a respectable
manner. What's happening now? We don't get what every other
citizen gets. The chareidi child gets far less than any other
child in the State. The method is crooked, and when such is
the case, we not only get less, but are called `bloodsuckers'
when something is finally given to chareidi education."
Rabbi Gafni added: "I am examining what happened in the
`Government of Change' with the preparation of the Budget. I
see that the number of students in the Chinuch Atzmai school
system has increased, while at the same time its budget was
cut. I look at the budget of the yeshivas. It was also cut.
So was the budget for dormitories. I look at the budget for
chareidi cultural activities, and see that it was cut by
"I took a look at other sections. Parallel to the yeshivas on
the lists are other institutions of higher learning [e.g.
universities], whose budgets have risen from NIS 4.8 billion
to NIS 5.2 billion. Fine. OK. We voted for Shetreet's law. We
are also in favor of higher education. Why? Because we want
them to learn more, to be more educated. So why did they cut
the budgets of the yeshivas? Why did they cut the budget of
the Chinuch Atzmai? What's the reason? The number of students
has grown, yet they deducted NIS 25 million. Why? Are there
fewer students? Fewer classes? Why did they cut the budgets
of the cultural activities by half?"
Rabbi Gafni also explained why members of his party could not
support the proposed Budget. "They come here, and so
flagrantly say, `Vote in favor, and you'll be partners in the
process.' OK. Let them ask all those whose budgets they
increase to be partners in the process. Why did they `cut'
the entire chareidi public in every clause? They shaved off
NIS 20 million from chareidi dormitories, NIS 25 million from
the Chinuch Atzmai, 60 million from the yeshivas' budget, 34
million from cultural activities. Why?
"And now they tell us: `come be partners in the process.'
What do you think we are? We have a public, too. They have
complaints against the Chinuch Atzmai? Something isn't in
order there? The bursar who sits in he Chinuch Atzmai happens
to be from the Treasury Ministry. We can't get a shekel
without the Treasury Ministry, and we want everything to be
in order. How can we be partners? To what process do you want
us to be partners? What do you think we are, third class
citizens? Is a first grader in the Chinuch Atzmai different
from any other child in the country?"
At the end of his remarks, Rabbi Gafni stated what the
chareidi educational budget should be. "The budget the
Education Ministry has currently presented is NIS 21 billion.
That is its budget. The chareidi enrollment -- from the
entire chareidi community, including the Maayan Hachinuch
HaTorani schools, constitutes 10% of the students in the
country. If such is the case, we should have received NIS 2.1
billion. That's 10%. Open the books and you'll see. We got
NIS 700 million [3.3%]. That means that my son gets far less
than yours. Why?"
"The State of Israel builds community centers and basketball
courts, but doesn't give a penny for the building of yeshivas
and synagogues. The State saves millions of shekels through
the yeshiva students." These statements were made last week
by Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Yigal Bibi (Mafdal) at a
discussion in the Knesset Interior Affairs Committee. The
topic of the discussion was the activities of the Religious
The deputy minister also said, "Yeshiva students cost the
state NIS 300 million a year, while unemployment remuneration
amount to NIS 2.5 billion. While there are 230,000 unemployed
in the State, yeshiva students study and teach and are
Israel's most important asset."
He also said: "The religious councils' budget should be
changed. 70 percent should be subsidized by the Government
and 30 percent by the local authorities, as is the case in
all Government bureaus. Such an arrangement would prevent the
burden from falling upon the local authorities which are on
the verge of collapse."
At the deliberation, Religious Affairs Minister Yitzchok
Cohen said that the rates of the income increments received
by yeshiva students from the Religious Affairs Ministry
should be comparable to those of the Bituach Leumi.
He noted that over 7 million people visit Israel's sacred
sites each year, while the number of visitors to nature
reserves and public parks is far smaller. Nonetheless, the
budget of the Nature Reserves Authority is much greater than
that of the Authority for the Development of Sacred Sites.
Committee Chairman David Azoulai (Shas) asked, "Why does the
Israel Museum receive a huge budget while the grave of Rabbi
Shimon bar Yochai, which receives so many more visitors,
receives no budget?" He also complained that whenever there
is a problem in the Treasury, the first to pay the price are