Photo: Dudi Vaaknin
Yeshiva students receive funds
Photo: Dudi Vaaknin

Yeshivas to receive State funds without teaching basic subjects

Knesset approves bill granting ultra-Orthodox education institutions funds without requiring them to uphold Education Ministry curriculum, including subjects such as math, English. Meretz: New law scandalous

The Knesset approved a bill on Wednesday underlining the independence of the ultra-Orthodox yeshivas and supplying them with funds without subjugating them to the Education Ministry and its teaching curriculum. The bill was passed by a majority of 39 MKs, and was opposed by just six.


According to the new law, the ultra-Orthodox community, as a "unique cultural group", will be permitted to operate post-primary learning institutions as long as the values of those institutions do not contradict Israel's values as a Jewish and democratic State.


The Education Ministry will not pedagogically inspect the yeshivas on issues that are not technical, yet the yeshivas will receive funds equal to 60% of those received by learning institutions that are loyal to its curriculum.


The bill was proposed by six members of the United Torah Judaism faction and six members of the Shas Party faction – after the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism petitioned the High Court of Justice with an appeal to fund institutions according to the amount of material it adopts from the basic studies curriculum, and withhold State funds from ultra-Orthodox schools.


Education Minister Yuli Tamir, who supported the bill, explained to Ynet that "this law regulates a process that for a long time had been conducted under the table. It regularizes the budget in a clear fashion… It is the lesser evil." She added that had the sides reached an agreement without involving the law, it would have been beneficial to both sides, but the involvement of the High Court of Justice left no choice.


"We did our best under the current circumstances," she said. "A culture war would not have been beneficial to anyone."


Shas Chairman Eli Yishai expressed satisfaction at the new law, and said that "the reformers have waged an ongoing battle against anything that has to do with holiness, Torah, and Judaism. It's too bad people are fighting against the Torah of God. The holy yeshivas do not teach secular studies, and this attempt at involvement in the laying down of Jewish values will not succeed."


'State-funded ignorance'

Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On claimed that "this is a scandalous law. For the first time ultra-Orthodox ignorance is being funded lawfully. I support cultural autonomy, but if a community requests State funds it must be willing to honor and respect its civil and cultural values.


"Does the study of mathematics and English threaten Judaism? The Knesset has succumbed to Rabbinical and ultra-Orthodox terror. The issue depends on the High Court of Justice, and the Knesset has essentially legislated behind the judges' backs."


Rabbi Dr. Gilad Kariv of the Center for Reform Judaism said that "the bill officially negates the natural expectation that the Education Ministry will be involved in the curriculum studied by 50,000 students. Rather than evolving and becoming more involved in ultra-Orthodox education following the High Court of Justice's discussion, the State is becoming irrelevant to everything that's happening with these students."


Referring to the government's support of the bill he said, "For the first time in the history of Israel, the State is going to relieve itself of the responsibility over thousands of students, and become apathetic to the fact that they will not receive basic life skills, or be able to support themselves in the future."


Amnon Meranda contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 07.24.08, 10:26
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