The High Court of Justice on Tuesday criticized an arrangement allowing the State to continue the transfer of stipends to full-time yeshiva students despite the fact that such funds were mandated by the Tal Law, which expired on August 1.
The State claims the arrangement will facilitate the integration of ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students into the job market, but during a hearing on an appeal demanding that the stipends be abolished, Judge Miriam Naor said, "How does giving someone money help integrate him into the job market? It is common sense that if you do not give him money he will have to work."
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An appeal filed last year by the National Student Union and the Center of Jewish Pluralism against the cabinet's decision to continue the payment of stipends to yeshiva students claimed that it is an attempt to circumvent the same arrangement the High Court had rejected in the past when it determined that the plan discriminates against other segments of the population."
In light of the appeal, the High Court issued a temporary injunction ordering the State to explain the difference between the two arrangements.
In 2010 the government granted stipends to 13,000 yeshiva students, costing the State NIS 135 million (about $34 million). Under the new arrangement, the amount has been limited to NIS 120 million (about $30 million) a year. According to the cabinet's decision, the next three years will see no change in the transfer of funds to yeshiva students who do not work and have three or more children. Under the government's plan, yeshiva students under the age of 29 with three children, whose income doesn’t exceed NIS 1,200 (about $330) and who do not own a car, will receive a stipend of NIS 1,040 ($287) a month for four years.
Protest in Tel Aviv against haredi stipends (Archive photo: Shaked Zichloisky)
In the fifth year – the so-called "integration" year – the student will receive 75% of that amount and be allowed to study half-time, and work half-time. After that, he will be expected to enter the workforce.
Another NIS 20 million ($5.5 million) will be set aside for some 2,000 yeshiva students – expected to be the most astute at their studies – who will be allowed to continue studying past the five-year period.
During Monday's hearing Attorney Hani Ofek of the State Prosecutor's Office said the plan will significantly reduce the number of yeshiva students. The new arrangement has already led to a 22% reduction in the number of yeshiva students, he claimed.
Attorney Orly Erez-Likhovski of the Israel Religious Action Center said granting stipends to yeshiva students discriminates against university students, women and others.
The court ordered the State to present its stance on the matter within a week before a ruling is issued.
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