The chareidi educational system was stunned when the Jerusalem Court for Administrative Affairs handed down a ruling in favor of an antagonistic appeal by the Reform's Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) to reduce the funding of the chareidi educational system in Jerusalem.
According to Judge Noam Solberg, the decision to subsidize the chareidi educational system equally does not promote real equality. Therefore he forbade the municipality from providing full funding, instead capping it at 75 percent starting next school year, thereby reverting to the funding arrangement before the City Council decision to provide full funding.
The Jerusalem City Council, at the initiative of chareidi education commissioner Rabbi Yitzchok Pindrus, decided to provide budget funds for the city's chareidi children at a level equal to that of other children. At the last moment, before the 45-day appeal period had ended, the High Court received a discriminatory appeal filed by Reform figures against the City Council, the directorship of Chinuch Atzmai and the directorship of Maayan Hachinuch Hatorani Hachinuch Hatorani, asking the High Court to halt funding educational networks pending a ruling in the case.
"This is an unequal decision that contradicts administrative laws and diverges sharply from proper administration, which requires the distribution of funds in accordance with relevant, clear, concrete and equal criteria," read the High Court decision. "Under these circumstances we have no alternative other than to cancel the decisions as requested in the appeal. The Jerusalem City Council must set new, detailed criteria to be used to weigh additional funding distribution for recognized but unofficial institutions."
The court determined that one of the following three avenues be pursued: changing the legislation, establishing new criteria in the capital or to fund all of them in this manner. It was understood that this was a reference to the Arab education system, since the government education receives full funding.
The court granted a four-month extension to reach a decision on this matter, and now Deputy Mayor Rabbi Pindrus will seek the advice of Maran HaRav Eliashiv shlita.
"The Jerusalem Municipality [policy] is based on an amendment known as the Gafni Law," said MK Rabbi Uri Maklev, chairman of the Public Petitions Committee, "which the Knesset legislated in accordance with the legal opinions of jurists and the former and current attorney generals. It explicitly addresses the issue of maintaining the institutions, which is subject to the decision of the local authority. The whole idea of the amendment was for addressing the present situation.
"Surprisingly, although the municipality operated in accordance with the law, once again the High Court managed to create a surprise by accepting the Reform petition against the chareidi education system, showing once again that when a Reform petition is accepted and is heard in court, anything can happen. Apparently the court has hidden laws we do not know about in issues related to the chareidi sector. I have no doubt that had the chareidi education system not been the matter under discussion, this kind of ruling would not have been accepted," said Rabbi Maklev.