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'Media encited students.' MK Gafni
Photo: Noam Moskowitz
MK Gafni defends stipend bill in student debate
In special panel held at Hebrew University, initiator of controversial bill meant to allocate funds to yeshiva students criticizes 'leftist' media, says 'this haredi child, who does not have milk for breakfast, is the one you aim to harm?'

Following a public uproar over a bill meant to grant stipends to yeshiva students, and claims of inequality between haredi and secular students, Knesset Member Moshe Gafni, the initiator of the bill, met with secular students in an effort to defend his position.

 

In a panel held Tuesday evening at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, Gafni said, "Students have completely different parameters and lifestyles than that of haredim."

 

Gafni, who also chairs the Knesset's Finance Committee, added that "offering income support to an unemployed student with three children, and no car or property is not practical."

 

During the panel, which was hosted by the Student Union and the Awakening organization, the United Torah Judaism member of Knesset said that depriving haredim and kollel students from getting income support will not make them go out and work.

 

"This haredi child, who does not have milk for breakfast, is the one you aim to harm? The same enlightened, pluralistic lefty will deprive these kids of milk and bread?" he said, tongue in cheek.

 

MK Gafni claimed that even if financial support was taken away from yeshiva students, it won't necessarily make it into the pockets of secular students instead.

 

"Let's say you've won the battle – and another NIS 123 million (about $33 million) goes back into the treasury, then what? You think it will go to students? The father will continue to study Torah and you'll be depriving his children from food," Gafni asserted.

 

'Leftist' media to blame

MK Gafni claimed that the media, which he called "mostly leftist," is the one to blame for the controversy surrounding the bill, and is responsible for enticing students to go out on the streets and protest.

 

Gafni's advisor, Yerah Toker, said the MK "decided to attend the panel although he knew well in advance that the audience will not vote for him in the elections or support his views.

 

"He speaks at every event to which he is invited, in order to voice the haredi public's position," he added.

 

The yeshiva student stipend bill is meant to give an answer to the funding problem of over 10,000 yeshiva students who have more than three children and whose spouses have no income.

 

The bill was drafted with the aim of circumventing a Supreme Court ruling that cancels all monetary assistance for haredi students included in the state budget as of 2011. The Supreme Court ruled that these funds discriminate against poor students attending higher education institutions, unless they are equally distributed between the two sectors.

 

 

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