Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

23 Sivan 5768 - June 26, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Yeshivos Ketanos Funding Bill Passed in First Reading

By Eliezer Rauchberger

Chareidi MKs scored a major achievement: on Tuesday the Knesset plenum unanimously passed in a first reading the Educational Institutions for Special Cultures bill, which is designed to provide budget arrangements for the yeshivos ketanos. The wording of the bill was approved by the Rabbinical Committee that has been closely following the issue.

Twenty-three MKs from UTJ, Shas, Likud, Kadima, Labor and HaIchud HaLeumi-NRP voted in favor of the bill.

According to the bill, the yeshivos ketanos would receive 60 percent of the per-student funding given to comparable government schools. Although the nature of the education is similar, in that both institutions aim at producing comparable academic development in their students, the per student cost is generally lower at yeshivas since they have fewer expensive non-core activities than a regular high school.

MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni, who presented the bill for UTJ, said, "This is a bill we didn't want to have to pass, but which was made necessary following the High Court petition [by the Israeli Reform movement] and because without this law the yeshivos ketanos would not have been able to receive funding in the coming academic year. Without this law it wouldn't be possible to provide funding for a boy who had his legs amputated and studies in a yeshiva ketanoh."

He also expressed his surprise that Education Minister Yuli Tamir filed a government appeal regarding the law and agreed to rescind it only after those who introduced the bill pledged to her that they would continue with the legislating procedures related to the bill in coordination with the Education Ministry, though just two weeks ago she told the Knesset plenum during a deliberations on a no-confidence motion that she supported the bill and the arrangements to fund the yeshivos ketanos with no stipulations.

Rabbi Gafni thanked all those who helped advance the bill and overcome the appeal filed by the Education Minister, especially Shas Chairman Eli Yishai.

MK Yaakov Margi, who presented the bill for Shas, said that those who appealed to the High Court to block the funding of the yeshivos ketanos never imagined the move would result in a special bill. "He meant to issue a curse and wound up issuing a blessing."

Rabbi Gafni said even after passing the bill in a first reading "there's still a lot of work ahead of us. Although we've gotten past the most significant hurdle...we must get the law passed in second and third readings, and before we get there we'll definitely have to overcome several obstacles. But I hope that besiyata deShmaya we'll succeed in this task and eventually the bill will receive final approval and go on the law books. That will guarantee the funding of the yeshivos ketanos."

Late last week the bill was approved by the government's Ministerial Legislating Committee after being passed by the Knesset Education Committee. The bill was based on a draft by the Rabbinical Committee that has been following the issue. The bill needed government backing in order to pass as quickly as possible with a majority of coalition votes. Four ministers supported the bill, three opposed it and two abstained.

The ministers who backed the bill were Meshulam Nahari and Eli Yishai (Shas), Yaakov Ben Yizri (Pensioners) and Education Minister Yuli Tamir (Labor). Opponents were Justice Minister Daniel Friedman and Housing Minister Zeev Boim (Kadima) and Ami Ayalon (Labor). Abstaining ministers were Meir Shetreet (Kadima) and Yitzchak Herzog (Labor). To ensure the bill won majority support in the committee, concerted efforts were made to persuade the ministers before the vote.

According to the bill, which is independent of the Government Education Law and was made necessary following a High Court petition filed by the Israel Reform movement, the yeshivos ketanos have been defined as distinctive cultural institutions and will receive 60 percent of the per-student funding provided to comparable government schools. The bill provides explicitly that yeshivas will not be subject to Education Ministry curriculum, but will be allowed to focus entirely on Torah studies.

The traditional yeshiva ketanoh curriculum had been under pressure exerted by the Education Ministry (that has been applied all across the levels of chareidi education) to include a "core" set of secular subjects. Chareidi rabbonim and educators had been and are strongly resisting this. The Israeli Reform movement brought a court suit to try to force the chareidi schools to teach the secular subjects, but the ironic effect will hopefully be that the special status of the yeshiva ketanos will be the subject of an explicit law.


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