Israel’s Zionist Orthodox-controlled Education Ministry has withheld millions of dollars in funding for organizations promoting Jewish pluralism, despite the fact that funding was allocated and earmarked in the state budget. Instead, the ministry appears to have given the money to Zionist Orthodox and haredi groups.
Above: Naftali Bennett, left; Benjamin Netanyahu, right
Zionist Orthodox Education Minister Withholds Millions Of Dollars From Non-Orthodox NGOs, Gives The Money To Orthodox And Haredi Groups Instead
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks about Israel being the homeland of all Jews and recognized Jewish religious movements, it’s unlikely he really means it.
Israel’s Zionist Orthodox-controlled Education Ministry has withheld funding for organizations promoting Jewish pluralism, despite the fact that funding was allocated and earmarked in the state budget, Ha’aretz reported.
Instead, the 16.5 million shekels (just over $4.1 million) earmarked for non-governmental organizations that promote religious pluralism appear to have been given to Orthodox organizations.
Those 16.5 million shekels were part of the larger 290 million shekels allocated for “Jewish culture.” Almost all 273.5 million shekels were already scheduled to go to Orthodox and haredi groups.
The sudden cut in government funding has reportedly caused the organizations promoting pluralism to dramatically cut back their activities and some are teetering on the edge of going dormant altogether.
The impacted NGOs criticized Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who is the head of the right-wing Zionist Orthodox HaBayit HaYehudi Party, of acting out of narrow sectarian interests. Bennett and his aides reportedly declined to comment. But the Education Ministry did tell the NGOs – after months of stonewalling and evasion – that the regulation that allows them to get the money allocated to them in the state budget has been “suspended at this stage.”
The NGO’s are, understandably, upset. First, they wrote a letter to Bennett asking him to release to them the money they were promised and encouraged Bennett “to regard this issue from a statesmanlike point of view, as befitting the education minister of all of Israel.”
That did not work.
Then, at the end of December they sent Bennett another letter explaining what the lack of funding was doing to their programs and projects, and what it meant for their continued existence. “A great investment that was made on the basis of expecting the state’s support has gone down the drain,” that letter to Bennett reportedly said.
Bennett still did not give the NGOs their money.
“When Bennett entered office we expected the funding of dozens of organizations that make Jewish culture accessible to Israeli society to continue and even to grow,” Michal Berman, who heads an umbrella group, Panim, that represents the pluralistic NGOs, said. “To our surprise, not only were our requests to meet the minister denied, but we were told of the cancelation of more and more financial allocations that were intended to narrow the gaps between the Orthodox communities and the thousands of Israelis who wish to choose their Judaism but lack the resources do to so.”
The bid to take the earmarked money away from the pluralist NGOs reportedly began late in reign of the previous Netanyahu government when then-Deputy Education Minister Avi Wartzman of Bennett’s HaBayit HaYehudi Party refused to approve the regulation necessary to allocate the funds to the pluralistic groups.
Netanyahu has done nothing to date to get the money to the pluralistic groups, despite pledges he made to North American Jewish leaders to support religious pluralism.