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











Betzedek Files Petition to Enforce Gafni Law at Local Authorities

By Betzalel Kahn

Betzedek has filed a preliminary administrative petition against the City of Kiryat Yam, demanding that it enforce the "Gafni Law" which requires local authorities to pay for the transportation of students who choose to enroll at Chinuch Atzmai schools outside of their place of residence.

In towns without a Chinuch Atzmai school, the law stipulates that the local authority must pay for students opting to commute to Chinuch Atzmai schools in other locations.

One of the first laws legislated in the State of Israel was the Mandatory Education Law, which provided for free education for all citizens, with the exception of certain fees. In 5727 (1967) the then Education Minister issued an order for free education at nonofficial institutions as well.

According to the law if there is no school of a certain type, the local authority must send the student to a suitable school in a nearby city and pay for these studies. But in 5756 (1996) the Center for Local Government issued a notice to authority heads determining that this arrangement would not apply to recognized-but-unofficial institutions.

Shortly before the 5759 (1999-2000) school year another notice was distributed which did not distinguish between official and unofficial institutions, but many authorities continued to discriminate against unofficial institutions. At the beginning of the 5762 (2002-03) school year the Director General of the Education Ministry distributed a similar notice, but a substantial number of local authorities still refused to pay for students studying at unofficial institutions in other locations and the costs fell entirely on the parents.

Chareidi MKs decided to rectify the situation through official legislation and before the 5764 (2004-05) school year opened an amendment to the Mandatory Education Law went into effect, requiring local authorities to pay for primary school students enrolled at Chinuch Atzmai schools and for upper school students at all recognized-but-unofficial institutions. This amendment was nicknamed the Gafni Law since MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni was the major figure behind the amendment.

The law led to changes at the majority of local authorities, forcing them to cover the tuition and transportation for children compelled to commute but a number of local authorities claimed that the law does not yet obligate them to pay since the Education Minister had not yet issued regulations for their implementation. Following pressure by chareidi lobbyists, the regulations were issued a short time ago and it appeared the parents of Chinuch Atzmai students across the country could finally breathe a sigh of relief. Yet certain local authority heads still seem to think they are above the law.

The most notable among them is the City of Kiryat Yam, which still refuses to pay for local residents enrolled at Bais Yaakov schools in Haifa. Bowing under the financial burden, the parents, together with MK Rabbi Gafni, sought the help of Betzedek Director Attorney Mordechai Green. The legal organization, which was founded by Agudas Yisroel of America, contacted city officials in writing several times. But after they failed to respond to the warnings, Betzedek filed an administrative petition in the Haifa District Court against the city and its mayor, Attorney Shmuel Sisso.

The petition claims that the City of Kiryat Yam must adhere to the regulations or else the court must enforce the law by demanding payment. Betzedek is also demanding that the Mayor pay the court costs out of his personal funds.

Betzedek laid out before the court the rationale behind the legislation, which completely parallels the stance taken by other courts in support of private education. The organization also claims that parents have the right to choose the educational framework that fits their belief system and way of life and that imposing financial sanctions against them deprives them of this right. The petition also states that the free choice of an educational framework is a direct outcome of freedom of religion in the country, a fundamental right recognized by the High Court since the early years of the State.

Betzedek hopes that the administrative petition will be accepted quickly to ensure that the Gafni Law applies around the country as soon as possible, but adds that Betzedek will continue to stand guard against infringements against this law.

The presiding judge gave the City of Kiryat Yam and its mayor one month to respond to Betzedek's contentions.


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