This organization is meant to increase the affiliation of Israelis with the Jewish faith.
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The request was approved by a majority of coalition votes despite a fierce debate between MK Stav Shaffir (Labor) and MK Zvulun Kalfa (Habayit Hayehudi).
Shaffir complained about the very existence of the administration in the Religious Services Ministry and not the Education Ministry. "What is a Jewish identity, and who is authorized to define it?" She asked. "It seems that someone is trying to promote a very specific agenda with public funds."
MK Kalfa reacted angrily, saying: "It's the decision of the elected government to promote the values it believes in. Jews have rights in this country too, and no harm will come of strengthening the Jewish identity a bit."
Committee Chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Habayit Hayehudi) supported Kalfa's words: "Funding the administration is indeed in accordance with government decisions, even if someone doesn't like that. It expresses the policy of the present elected government, just like former governments made decisions I didn't approve of."
According to a Finance Ministry statement: "The Jewish Identity Administration was started as a new unit in the Religious Services Ministry for all branches of Judaism. This is according to a government decision from the first of September this year, and in compliance with the finance minister to include in the administration not only the Orthodox but also the Reform and Conservative branches of Judaism.
"To fund the administration a clear budget was found of NIS 14 million, which was approved in the Finance Committee. The administration is meant to promote and strengthen Jewish identity within different populations in Israeli society and to increase awareness and empathy with the basic tenets of Jewish identity and Jewish and national legacy."
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This budget is short change compared to the series of budgets approved in the committee, including NIS 251.7 million (roughly $72 million) to the Defense Ministry and a license to commit to NIS 536.3 million ($152 million) for 22 years as rent for the government building in Jerusalem, which will be owned by the government after this period of time.
The Religious Services Ministry received a NIS 3.4 million (some $960,000) budget to fund transferring the ministry and handling holy sites; NIS 18.2 million (over $5 million) were approved to "Support and operate the ministry" and NIS 37.8 million ($10.7 million) more to support civilian burial, inspection of the religious councils, changing filters in mikvehs, and to secure mikvehs and other religious facilities.
Other allowances included: NIS 170 million ($49 million) to the Tourism Ministry to develop the Dead Sea area, upgrade the Eilat promenade, building and expanding hotels, and development in Akko.
NIS 20 million (some $5.7 million) were given to the Housing and Construction Ministry to renovate public housing apartments and NIS 10 million (roughly $2.8 million) more for plan reserves around the country. NIS 145 million (approximately $41 million) was given to the Economy Ministry to fund employment options, for the activity of the Agency for Small Businesses, for the activity of the Trade Administration and the Israeli Export Institution, to develop industrial areas in the peripheries, and to fund further actions to promote industry and the Israeli Consumer Council.
Internal Affairs Minister Gideon Sa'ar, who passed a bill allowing a longer paid maternity leave 6 years ago, told Lapid that the costs he was against will be subtracted from vacation and sick days. "Of course during those days, the fathers need to be at home, and it's our duty to create the legal infrastructure that allows them to do that," Sa'ar said.
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