Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Charedi World

24 Cheshvan 5760 - November 3, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Anti-Chareidi Budgetary Discrimination All Over the Map

By E. Rauchberger

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 half.

"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 Affairs Ministry.

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 the yeshivas.

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