General strike expected in religious schools
Knesset's Education Committee holds special meeting on budget cuts in yeshivot, religious girls' high school. Religious Education Forum says schools to go on strike next week until NIS 86 million are returned to budget. MK Orlev: Haredim, Arabs wouldn't suffer such cuts
The Knesset's Education Committee, which held a special meeting to discuss the matter, expressed its support of the move in a bid to solve the crisis. The Forum plans to hold a student protest outside the cabinet meeting next week.
The Forum's claims focus both on the size of the cut – about 90% of the budget – and on its timing – October, after the start of the school year.
Its members also said that the institutions' budgeting had yet to be included in the State Budget, despite a pact signed between the Likud party and representatives of Religious Zionism and the coalition agreement with the Habayit Hayehudi party.
Knesset Member Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi), chairman of the Education Committee, said during the meeting that there was no precedent for such a large cut in the education system's budget, noting that he was convinced "Arabs, haredim and Ethiopians would not suffer such cuts."
According to Orlev, "When Religious Zionism is the victim, anything is possible: They can carry out a disengagement and cut 90%, and no one is agitated."
Orlev reprimanded Raviv Sobol, the Finance Ministry's deputy budget director, who was unable to answer the Forum members' claims despite knowing about the meeting in advance. He also expressed his disappointment with the attitude of the government ministries, which failed to send representatives to the discussion.
"From now on this is not only the business of Religious Zionism but of the Knesset as well," he stressed.
'Up to NIS 12,000 paid per child a year'
MK Orlev told Ynet he believed the battle would soon be joined by the parents and teachers' organizations and by Religious Zionism rabbis. He warned that "those who will have to pay the price eventually are the students' parents, who are already paying NIS 8,000-12,000 ($2,130-3,200) per child, and NIS 15,000-20,000 ($4,000-5,335) in a boarding school."
MK Danny Danon (Likud) also said that this was not a sectorial matter. He stressed that he himself was not a religious Jew, but that "the issue must concern everyone who cared about Zionism."
Representatives of the different bodies of the Religious Education Forum presented their distress, claiming their existence and existence of Israel as a Jewish state were being threatened.
Eitan Habani, a student at the Nativ-Tfahot hesder yeshiva, spoke about the Maagalim organization which is active in religious high school and helped motivate him to seek significant military service.
"They changed my life," he said. "My twin brother, for example, reached a completely different place than I did." Today, as the graduate of a combat unit, a family man, a yeshiva student and an instructor in Maagalim, Habani fears that the organization will cease to exist due to the cutbacks.