Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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27 Cheshvan 5768 - November 8, 2007 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Knesset Defeats No-Confidence Motion on Ending Support for Foreign Yeshiva Students and Reducing Kollel Stipends

By Eliezer Rauchberger

A majority of 57 MKs defeated a no-confidence motion in the Knesset plenum early this week filed by United Torah Judaism and HaIchud HaLeumi-NRP regarding the government's decision to stop support funding for yeshiva students from abroad and reduce support funding for kollel students.

Twenty-two MKs representing UTJ, HaIchud HaLeumi-NRP, the Likud and the National Democratic Assembly voted no confidence and seven MKs representing Meretz and Hadash abstained. Shas and the other coalition members from Kadima, Labor, Pensioners and Yisrael Beiteinu backed the government.

The Knesset also rejected two other no-confidence motions submitted by the Likud and the Arab parties on the government's policy in light of events in the Gaza Strip.

MK Rabbi Yaakov Litzman, who presented the no-confidence motion for UTJ, said the government's decision to support only yeshiva students with Israeli citizenship would reduce the basic budget for 2008 by NIS 18 million ($4.6 million). "We're talking about students from abroad who come to study here in Israel who eventually make aliya, get married here and not only that but they also bring their families here. So how absurd it is to cut funding that amounts to NIS 18 million. This is the big cut the government is looking for? This is where it's going to make big bucks?"

Rabbi Litzman went on to say that in contrast to yeshiva students, university students from abroad receive massive government support, both for the institutions where they study and for the students themselves. "So what's the difference between a foreign student who studies at a university and receives government assistance, and a yeshiva student who does not? The only reason is simply that they do not want chareidi aliyah to the State. There's no other reason."

Later he commented on the cut in funding for avreichim, calling it a continuation of the cut in Children's Allotments. "They're cutting support for poor families. In every area we are at a low ebb, with one exception — poverty. We're at a peak when it comes to poverty and impoverished children. It's not enough that cuts were made for every family with children; now they want to diminish funding for avreichim who sit and study all day.

"Where's Shas? All of you voted for the budget. What did you vote for? To send away all foreign [yeshiva] students and not let them into the country? Isn't that racism? Doesn't this matter of reducing and cutting funding for avreichim create poverty here? And this is what you supported in a first reading? How could that be? If we [UTJ] were in this coalition would they have even dared to present such a thing?"

Welfare Minister Yitzhak Herzog, who responded in the name of the government in place of the Finance Minister, said that nobody has any intention of hampering yeshiva and kollel students, "but we live in a very complex reality that demands that the Finance Ministry and the government take measures that appear logical." He said adjustments would be made to a portion of the cuts in the budgets for Torah institutions, and for others the government feels the cut is appropriate.

Regarding the discontinuation of funding for foreign yeshiva students, the Minister claimed that the State does not provide support for foreign students at any other institution, including university students.

On the cut in stipends for kollel men he claimed the government restored the ratio of support of the married students in relation to the funding given unmarried yeshiva students to the level preceding Netanyahu's decrees. "In practice the situation has returned to its prior state, in terms of the relative amount that was widely accepted for years," said Herzog. "I think that in light of the [budget] balancing, constraints, difficulties and problems the State of Israel faces, the decision is logical and reasonable."


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