10 years of debates
Photo: AFP
Beinish: No distinguishing between students
Photo: Gil Yohanan

Court: Cancel yeshiva students' assured income

High Court says clause granting yeshiva students benefits is illegal because it harms equality principle. Shas chairman orders preparation of bill to counter ruling

In a groundbreaking precedent, the High Court of Justice ruled Monday that the State's manner of allotting assured income to yeshiva students was illegal, and ordered the clause be removed from the State Budget for 2011.


Jewish parties were outraged by the court decision, with Knesset Finance Committee Chairman MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) calling it "a stiff blow to one of the economically weakest classes in Israeli society" and the Shas chairman ordering a bill to counter it.


The precedent was set with majority of six justices concurring, led by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish.


The justices determined that the clause guaranteeing assured income to yeshiva students must be removed from the budget because it is basically a financial rule, which must apply to all students.


The clause was therefore deemed harmful to the democratic principle of equality and thus illegal.


The case has been debated by the High Court since 2000, when a petition against the religious affairs minister was filed by Arnon Yekutiel, then a member of Jerusalem's city council. 


Yekutiel, who headed many public battles for the secular population of the capital, died nine years ago, unfortunately missing out on the witnessing the fruits of his labor.


The court decision handed down by Beinish said that "there can be no distinguishing between yeshiva students and students studying at other institutions".


The court based its decision on the fact that the Assured Income Law and the ordinances following it explicitly reject assuring the income of students.

But dissenting Justice Edmond Levy, the only religious judge on the panel, said studying the Torah is "a command of the bible, which the Knesset and government believed should be funded". The separation between yeshiva and other students is based on "relevant difference", he added.


Jewish MKs and ministers were not long in responding to the court's decision. "There has never been a single court ruling in favor of the haredi public in the High Court," Gafni said.


Meanwhile, Shas Chairman Eli Yishai also claimed the court decision discriminates against the haredi public, and immediately ordered the preparation of a bill to counter it.


The assured income clause currently applies to couples who do not work, have three or more children, and do not own a vehicle. Thousands of married yeshiva students rely on the benefits stipulated by the clause, as well as funds given them by the yeshivas, which are also government-funded.


Zvi Lavi contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 06.14.10, 13:30
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