Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

3 Elul 5765 - September 7, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Beitar Illit Petitions High Court to Include All its Schools in the Hot Lunch Program

By Tzvi Sofer

Beitar Illit Mayor Rabbi Yitzchok Pindrus petitioned the High Court to issue a nisi order instructing the Education Minister and the Finance Minister to explain why the government's hot-lunch program was not instituted in all of the primary schools in Beitar Illit for the 5766 school year.

In the petition brought before the High Court by Attorney Akiva Silvetzky, the Mayor is asking the court to determine which students in Beitar's various primary schools are eligible for free lunches according to the Student Daily Meal Law of 5765-2005. The City of Beitar Illit is also demanding in advance that if for some reason the Court finds that not all of the city's schools are eligible under the law, then it should void the law due to its discriminatory nature.

Ranked at the bottom of the towns with poor socioeconomic conditions, Beitar Illit has 8,000 students in 32 institutions: two government-religious schools, seven Chinuch Atzmai and Maayan Hachinuch HaTorani schools, 13 recognized but unofficial institutions and 10 exempt institutions. All of these institutions take part in the extended-day program.

In its petition, the City of Beitar notes that all of the institutions were included in last year's hot lunch pilot program, which was a big success. The Mayor worked to included both Beitar Illit and Modi'in Illit in the extended- day program so that the new law to provide hot lunches in towns officially listed as socioeconomically deprived towns where the extended-day program is in effect would apply to these two cities as well.

Despite the many promises made to the city by various officials in the government ministries, including the Prime Minister himself, the state has sidestepped its legal obligation to have the lunch program apply to all of the city's educational institutions. During all of the Knesset Education Committee meetings, government representatives tried to block the inclusion of Beitar Illit institutions in the extended-day program, thereby rendering them ineligible for the hot-lunch program. Several weeks ago the Education Ministry notified the City of Beitar Illit that the hot-lunch program could apply to 2,593 students at the city's nine government-religious, Chinuch Atzmai and Maayan Hachinuch HaTorani schools, but the Mayor rejected the discriminatory offer.

In the petition, Mayor Pindrus claimed that chareidi institutions defined as exempt and recognized but unofficial meet the legal demands for mandatory education and therefore these students should not be discriminated against compared to official and government institutions. "The Finance and Education Ministers are not authorized to determine which segment of the student population should benefit from the food based on the curriculum at the schools, since there is no connection between curriculum and the need for lunch every day, and there is no justification to make distinctions among the students based on the family's worldview and the curriculum the student studies," reads the High Court petition. "The more the ministers determine the hot-lunch program does not apply to exempt institutions or recognized but unofficial institutions due to these definitions, the more this shows the law to be a discriminatory, illegitimate decision."

The petition quotes remarks former Education Minister Yossi Sarid made during a joint Finance Committee and Education Committee meeting on the matter. "I do not have an obsession with chareidim and I certainly don't have an obsession with chareidi children. An education minister must be color-blind and recognize that children are children. And this cannot be challenged in certain places. All children must eat and the children of chareidim, who are not guilty of anything [just because] they were born into a chareidi family—what is this? . . . Even in antisemitic countries they don't do things like this—distinctions between one type and another . . . This is antisemitic. Children are children. We don't differentiate between children. The Education Minister is a minister of all children, without exception . . . "

High Court Judge D. Dorner instructed the State to respond to the petition by the first week of September.


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