“This decision [to allow the bill to go forward with the government’s backing] does harm to the economy and sticks a knife in the back in the future of the economy and is a betrayal of social responsibility. In the shadow of an intifada and budget negotiations, Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and Finance Minister [Moshe] Kahlon are conducting a general fire sale of the budget and the parties of the Opposition are simply ignoring it. These funds will leave yeshiva students in full-time study instead of going out to find work.”
Government Backs Bill To Fund Haredi Yeshiva Students
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Earlier today, Israel’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a bill proposed by haredi members of Knesset from the Ashkenazi haredi United Torah Judaism Party and the Sefardi haredi Shas Party, along with a member of Knesset from the ruling Likud Party that would give full-time haredi yeshiva students income support payments.
According to a report in the Jerusalem Post, as it now stands, all Israelis are entitled to income support payments if their incomes are less than a set cap. However, healthy able-bodied people who do not work and who are not actively looking for work are currently barred from receiving those payments. The new law would remove those restrictions – but only for haredi yeshiva students, university students and students at other institutions of higher learning – and would make payments to these students whose income falls below the set caps and who have at least one child.
These payments to haredi yeshiva students alone (the other non-haredi students were never eligible for the payments), which were established through government order not by law, failed because activist groups, including Israel’s Union of Jewish Students, complained it was discriminatory – a point Israel’s High Court of Justice noted and agreed with.
In response, haredi lawmakers promised to write a new bill that would include university students so the discrimination claim could not be used against it.
But that is a ruse. Almost no non-haredi university students have children and many of the few that do would likely not qualify for the income support payments anyway.
Meanwhile, haredim choose not to work – often for decades – as they study full time in yeshivas that teach no marketable skills and which almost always do not provide any secular education. And because these adult haredi yeshiva students come from haredi yeshiva high schools and grammar schools that taught little to no secular subjects, these haredi men are often woefully unprepared for the modern workplace and have great difficulty finding work if they do choose to leave full-time yeshiva study.
The centrist largely secular Yesh Atid Party helped block a potential bill similar to this one proposed by haredi lawmakers during the last government. But now Yesh Atid is not in the ruling coalition while haredi parties are.
If the bill passes, most haredi yeshiva students would receive NIS 2,600 ($669) each month.
Many activists and university student leaders still oppose the funding because it damages Israel economically while at the same time enabling a haredi no-work lifestyle, and because most secular and non-haredi university students do not yet have children, making them ineligible for the payments.
“This decision [to allow the bill to go forward with the government’s backing] does harm to the economy and sticks a knife in the back in the future of the economy and is a betrayal of social responsibility,” Reform Rabbi Uri Regev, the head of the religious freedom organization Hiddush, told the Post. “In the shadow of an intifada and budget negotiations, Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and Finance Minister [Moshe] Kahlon are conducting a general fire sale of the budget and the parties of the Opposition are simply ignoring it. These funds will leave yeshiva students in full-time study instead of going out to find work.”