Adding up

All time high in yeshiva student numbers: about 114,000

How many new publicly funded yeshiva students have there been in the past two year? The answer: 11,000. And how many new yeshiva students have either enlisted in the army or national service increased by only 500.

Haredi yeshiva Flash90Haredi yeshiva Flash90

In the past two years, there has been an increase of about 10% in the number of yeshiva students. The total number of students in yeshivas has increased from 103,000 in 2010, and now stands at 114,000. The actual growth is even greater than this, as at the end of 2010, a decrease of 10,000 students was recorded, a result of tightening the audit procedures at yeshivas. This stands in distinct contrast to the supposedly significant increase in ultra-Orthodox army and civil service, which only rose by 500 in the same time.

Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner's asked a “Sheilta” in the Knesset, a special informational question: How many new publicly funded yeshiva students have there been in the past two year? The answer: 11,000. And how many new yeshiva students have either enlisted in the army or national service increased by only 500.

Vice President of Hiddush for Religious Freedom and Equality, Shahar Ilan, said in response that, "This data proves that Israel is moving quickly toward economic disaster because of the absence of ultra-Orthodox men from the workforce. Just setting limits for only outstanding students to remain in yeshivas, as well as the halting of stipends and other benefits, will stop the free fall down this dangerous slope. The renewed discussion of the Tal Law is an excellent opportunity to do just that. In order to do so, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needs to act courageously and establish a civil government, which the public is calling for. It should be a government without Shas and United Torah Judaism, parties that encourage army and work evasion." 

I call on the prime minister to start considering the public who actually does serve in the army and works [as well as] the recommendations of the Trajtenberg committee, instead of allowing the dramatic number of ultra-Orthodox people who choose to integrate into non-productive frameworks to continue increasing.

These numbers were revealed on the coattails of MK Plesner's inquiry, as head of the committee on implementing the Tal Law in the Knesset for the Ministry of Education, published in the newspaper Calcalist. The number of ultra-Orthodox men who serve either in the army or perform national service rose only by 500 over the last two years. The number stands today at 2,400 people serving, in contrast to 1,900 in 2010.

This means that the number of people who are joining yeshivas increased 22 times more than the number of people joining the army or national service.

The Prime Minister and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, along with a number of professionals in the Prime Minister's Office (especially the National Economic Council) boast a variety of programs and initiatives designed to integrate the ultra-Orthodox community into national service and employment. In practice, the data shows that the integration is too insignificant and too slow.

Plesner said that, "Despite the Prime Minister and the Finance Ministers’ boasts regarding the effectiveness of their policies to integrate the ultra-Orthodox, the actual data does not prove that their policy 'delivers the goods.'"

Plesner also said, "The existing relationship is that there are ten new yeshiva students for every one person enlisting in the army or national service. This has to be turned around. The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense committee will demand significant streamlining of the civil and military service establishments and the setting of target numbers and quotas, corresponding to the IDF's needs to carry out their recruitment policy."

In relation to the adoption of the Trajtenberg Committee recommendations, Plesner said, "The Israeli government chooses to ignore these recommendations in an inelegant manner. Some of them were slated to be implemented two months ago. I call on the Prime Minister to start worrying about the public who is serving in the army and working; to implement the Trajtenberg recommendations, instead of allowing the proliferation of the dramatic increase in the number of ultra-Orthodox men who continue to choose to integrate into non-productive frameworks."

See Calcalist's coverage of Hiddush's position here in Hebrew

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