The number of yeshiva and kollel students has been reduced by some 8,500 students since December 2010. The Education Ministry confirmed the details.
Recent years have seen a constant rise in the number of students of Torah institutions funded by the State. This trend stopped for a while during former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's second government (as a result of the Shinui party being in the coalition and the haredi parties in the opposition) – but it was not reversed, as is happening now.
In December 2010, there were some 130,000 students registered in the Education Ministry. Today there are only 121,000.
The main reason for the smaller number of students is that many institutions have removed students who fail to attend classes regularly from their lists for fear that the entire institution would be disqualified.
In addition, there are institutions which have ceded budgetary support due to the tougher conditions, and several others which were disqualified in the latest reviews.
According to professional estimates, the state could save NIS 50 to 70 million ($14 to 19 million) a year as a result of the new figures. The data presented refer to yeshivot comprised of students aged 16-17 study and kollelim (where only married people study) and not to small yeshivot – the haredi "high schools".
It all began with fraud
Supervision on the kollelim was tightened following an affair involving falsified documents and false reports, which was revealed about two months ago in the Khal Edat Yerushalyim institutions.
A memo distributed among yeshiva heads explained that the police have analyzed the working methods of the suspects in the affair, and have decided to enforce procedures order to prevent similar incidents from repeating themselves.
According to the new instructions, during a ministry supervisor's visit to the institution, only the students present will be counted – and additional students will not be allowed to enter during the review.
The students will identify themselves to the supervisors using their original identity card or driver's license rather than photos, and this will be done the presence of a representative of the institution who knows the students and can identify them himself.
A refusal to take part in the inspection may lead to the State's refusal to recognize the institution and to a return of support funds.
Rabbi Uri Regev, director of Hiddush – For Religious Freedom and Equality, said in response: "The fear of inspection has led to the 'deletion' of thousands of students and helped the State to save tens of millions of shekels.
"Increasing inspections initiated by the Treasury and Education Ministry is holy service, and we should hope that they won't be discouraged by political pressures on the part of the haredi parties. Fines are not enough. The State Prosecutor's Office must file indictments against those caught issuing false reports."
- Follow Ynetnews on Facebook