Hiddush: High cost of Haredi support

To secure the haredi parties’ support for the budget, the government introduced additions to items such as support for Torani education and reinstatement of the living stipend for married yeshiva students

Yuval Steinitz Flash90Yuval Steinitz Flash90

A review by Hiddush – Religious Freedom for Israel has found that the government added more than a billion shekels to items that haredi parties hold dear, in order to secure their support for the state budget.

The added money, Rotem Sela reported on the website nrg, was earmarked for, among other things, increased funding for Torani schools, for child allowances, for kollels, and for restoring the living stipend for married yeshiva students – an item that appeared in the previous budget, was ruled out by the High Court of Justice, and was reintroduced in a modified version but at an identical budgetary cost.

Among the budget items that grew and may be deemed “haredi” achievements: An added NIS 182 million, or 11.8%, for Torani education, bringing it from NIS 1.55 billion to NIS 1.734 billion; and a 34% leap in the budget for kollels, which rose by NIS 239 million in 2011, to NIS 940 million. Another item that constitutes an accomplishment for the haredi parties is the budget for child allowances, a total of half a billion shekels that will be allocated to all families in Israel with children under 18.

“We are talking about a billion shekels that is being transferred to increase poverty and not to stamp it out,” says Shahar Ilan, vice president of research and information at Hiddush. Ilan adds: “Even though the Gabbai committee report noted that living stipends for married yeshiva students are an obstacle to their entering the workforce – this item was reinstated in the budget. This is a government that talks about getting avrechim out to work and does everything to sabotage that. This government pays its haredi partners unreasonable prices.”

MK Yohanan Plesner of Kadima sees the content that is being taught in haredi schools as the more significant problem. “The substantial and most worrisome increase is in the education budget. On one side you’ve got a school system with dwindling power and increasingly crowded classrooms, and on the other – the non-Zionist education system is blooming, growing stronger, and thriving, and receives a budget increase that is above and beyond the growth of the haredi population,” Plesner says.

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