Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

2 Iyar 5761 - April 25, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







How Much do Chareidim Really Get?

By A. Porat, with Yoni Rottenberg

This article is the fourth in a series that will appear from time to time discussing the allocation of public financial resources of the State of Israel.

The previous articles dealt with two issues: the claim that chareidim get a big monthly financial package from the government, and the claim that chareidim pay very little tax. They showed that the first claim is based on calculations that are misleading to say the least, including support and subsidies that are received by everyone and calculating tax savings in a ridiculous manner, and that if the same calculations are made elsewhere they show that a typical secular family gets even more per month.

The second claim also breaks down under analysis. Most chareidim do work and pay taxes, for one thing, and also almost half the government's income is from indirect taxes on consumption like VAT, which certainly are paid by chareidi consumers as much as anyone else.

An earlier part focused on the government money that is funneled to the various parties who have their fingers in the pie. It explains the important difference in the way chareidi institutions are funded compared to the way that other comparable institutions are funded, namely, that regular institutions (such as boarding schools) are funded from the general budget, whereas all chareidi institutions are funded from support monies.

As we quoted Rabbi Yaakov Gutterman, who until recently worked for the chareidi MKs (now he is mayor of Kiryat Sefer): "The key to understanding this topic lies in the terms `budget' (taktziv) and `support' (temicha). The chareidi public is hardly ever included within one of the sections of the standard budget, but only within the framework of support. That is why we are discriminated against in all government offices. Criteria for the budget are formulated to accommodate the needs of the secular society and in most cases are totally irrelevant to the chareidi public, so that we are forced to make do with the small amounts allocated to us within the support framework. Most of the sums to which each government ministry is entitled are swallowed up by the ministry's budget, and the budget is allocated automatically, whereas money from the support fund has to be fought for anew each year."

The most telling indication of this, as Rabbi Gutterman noted, is the fact that only in the Ministry of Religion is the budget made up largely of support funds, in contrast to every other ministry where support funds form a very small part of the overall budget.

The Results of Secular Education

In the budget of the year 2000, chinuch chareidi makes up 11 percent of all the students. Altogether, according to the figures of the Ministry of Education, it gets NIS 784 million. The Chinuch Hahityashvuti (kibbutzim and moshavim) makes up five percent of the students, yet it gets more than NIS 1.5 billion. (All other elementary school education gets NIS 6.248 billion, and past elementary school (al yesodi) gets NIS 5.998 billion. )

Let us pause for a moment to consider the indirect costs of education, and the results of the general educational system, in which the Education Ministry invests about 20 billion NIS a year.

In addition to the sums allocated by the Education Ministry to Israeli youth, the Labor and Social Welfare Ministry allocates another NIS 278,744,000 to deal with young people who have left the failing educational system. Local authorities also participate financially in helping these youngsters.

The Education Ministry budget also includes many sections covering non- formal education and other measures to help them. In addition, the Ministry for Internal Security budget for the year 2000 amounted to NIS 6.6 billion. At the top of the list of priorities is "the fight against drugs and crime and the fight against violence in the family and juvenile crime."

According to police statistics, there are 6905 security and criminal prisoners who are Israeli citizens, of whom only eight are graduates of yeshivos! The Prison Authority's budget alone for this year stands at about a billion NIS.

Incidentally, the chareidi public also "benefits" from the Prison Authority's budget in the form of a voluntary project for religious rehabilitation, which includes chareidi lecturers in prisons. This project has saved many prisoners, cutting them off from the criminal world and leading to their spiritual and material rehabilitation.

While we are on the topic of the secular education system's successes and achievements, we ought to mention the levels of crime and violence in their schools, the drugs and other assorted maladies. In short, the investment in education has yielded fruits, but unfortunately they are rotten.

The chareidi community, not having its share of rotten fruit, does not get money from these parts of the budgets. Of course, no one in his right mind would regard it as enviable to have such money spent on his community, but nonetheless considerable sums are spent to little avail. In our opinion, if more money would be spent on Torah education, there would be no need for those expenditures.

Discrimination Again

If the chareidi public is discriminated against in the allocation of the standard budget, the situation is even worse when it comes to supplementary funds, which are not authorized automatically but require special approval.

Projects such as Shachar (which supports welfare services) or ones relating to computers or air-conditioners are almost unknown to Chinuch Atzmai pupils. In the areas of transport, building renovations and equipment, we find very severe discrimination.

Anyone who undertakes even a superficial survey of the situation, is immediately struck by glaring disparities. Whereas secular schools are characterized by large and impressive buildings, which include magnificent sport halls, laboratories, annexes, spacious courtyards and sport grounds, chareidi schools resemble a squashed and miserable caravan colony.

This housing problem is one of the most difficult headaches for the chareidi educational system. We are hit on two fronts. On the one hand, we are not provided with a suitable budget to meet our growing numbers, even though this is supposed to be compulsory education. On the other hand, if a chareidi institution applies for help to pay rent, it is met with numerous obstacles. Moreover, even when buildings are leased on a private basis, Education Ministry representatives make continued assistance conditional upon meeting Education Ministry standards, which involves a heavy financial burden for the institution and delays in the transfer of funds.

Even the supplementary funds which are approved eventually, are not distributed in accordance with accepted criteria, but only on a partial basis, as a one-time payment. Every shekel has to be fought for anew each time. In many cases, another struggle has to be reckoned with, even after the transfer of the money has been approved. This happens when funds get "stuck" on the way to their destination, in the Ministry of Finance or in local authorities.

At this point, we wish to mention a disturbing issue, which is hopefully only a problem of the past. Historically, the Education Ministry was given to a member of the ruling part, basically Labor or Likud. At the present, the Minister of Education is Limor Livnat, a member of Likud. Because of the influence that education has on the society, it was felt that someone close to the "mainstream" should be in charge. Religious parties were excluded, as were parties of the Left. The latter were always very ideological and definitely not part of any consensus. The first to break this consensus was Mafdal which held the Education Ministry for several years even though they were not considered part of the mainstream. In the governments of the Left of the past decade, the Education portfolio was given to a member of Meretz, most recently to Yossi Sarid, leader of Meretz. His behavior clearly reveals the intentions of the Meretz Education Minister.

Many chareidi schools were excluded from two Education Ministry programs which provided added support for educational institutions in development areas and other national priority areas. The first is an aid program for basic subjects, which includes lunch. These "daytime boarding schools" -- better known as the "Rashi Fund" -- are associated with certain people in France, but the Education Ministry also contributes to it. The second program, known as Madarom, is an aid program for weaker population sectors. Both these programs are financed in priority areas and development towns.

The discrimination inherent in these programs should not be seen merely as a budgetary problem. We may detect in them a malicious trend to encourage parents from traditional homes with no financial means, to send their children to secular rather than religious schools; in other words, to buy children with money. We are witnessing the return of the infamous French "Alliance Israelite Universelle" in a new guise, ready to dig its nails into the young Sephardi generation with the financial backing of the government.

Chareidi Culture

This category appears in the "support" section of the Education Ministry's budget, and not in the budget proper. The full title of this budgetary section is "Torah Culture, Cultural Chareidi Activities and Educational Institutions" and it has always been a thorn in the eyes of those who hate religion. However, anyone taking a cursory glance at the actual figures will quickly realize that the title is misleading, to put it mildly.

In fiscal 1999, the Education Ministry distributed a total of NIS 1,067,681,695 in "support" funds to various cultural, sports and educational television projects, out of which only NIS 63.5 million were directed to the various chareidi cultural purposes. In other words only about six percent of the total sum was spent here, whereas the chareidi public is estimated to make up about eight percent of the population (though about 11 percent of the school age population). This does not seem to be so far out of line, however if we take into account the fact that the chareidi public receives nothing from the culture-related funding that is part of the Education Ministry's general budget, such as higher education, adult education, enrichment courses, a clear picture emerges of blatant discrimination. To put things into correct proportions, we may point out that Beit Berel alone (the cultural stronghold of the classic Labor Party) received NIS 71 million -- more than the entire chareidi community throughout Eretz Yisroel.

Moreover, it should be noted that much of the money that goes to the chareidi community is used for various Torah talks and lectures. These Torah shiurim in fact serve not only the chareidi community, but also the broader religious and traditional public in Israel. More than half of all the participants in Toda'a and Torah Veyahadus La'am shiurim do not come from the chareidi community.

In the year 2000 budget, not only were the figures not updated in accordance with the rise in the cost of living index and the growth of the chareidi community, as reflected in the results of the last elections, but there were even plans afoot to cut the basic budget by NIS 20 million! Yahadus Hatorah representatives managed to partially abrogate this decree, but this was not due to love, but rather because of the sorry state the coalition was in on the eve of Knesset approval of the budget. Furthermore, these funds were only approved within the framework of the coalition budget, which is financed by a reserve fund within the budget proper. In other words, it was just a one-off approval.

This means that our MKs will be forced to fight again every year for the funds which are rightfully ours by law. This wretched system was put into place in order to make the chareidi public bow its head and to force it to support whoever happens to be in power. This state of affairs is responsible for our negative image as greedy extortioners who can be bought off with money. The same people who created this situation in the first place then turn in feigned innocence to the media and accuse us of blackmail, adding insult to injury.

In reality, of course, the main discrimination is concealed inside the sections of the general budget which do not come into the media spotlight, and not in the "support" sections. Secular cultural causes receive massive financial assistance from the educational system's general budget.

Section 24 of the Education Ministry's budget, called "general pedagogic authority" has a total budget of NIS 1,361,272,000. From this sum, community centers receive about NIS 150 million, adult education about NIS 130 million, "informal education" about NIS 140 million, education for the dissemination of Zionist and democratic values about NIS 31 million, and welfare services ("Shachar") about NIS 230 million. Chareidi culture, which focuses mainly on Torah shiurim and education, is logically comparable to this general pedagogic authority, and to the higher education section which has a budget of 5.2 billion.

The "support" section for the secular public is supposed to finance sport, entertainment and enrichment courses, but we, who do not receive anything for lectures and shiurim from the pedagogic authority, have no choice but to use the whole sum for Torah shiurim, leaving us no funds at all for culture and health. All health clubs and physical activities in the chareidi community are privately run and financed.

To give readers some idea of the sums allocated by the Education and Culture Ministry to other bodies, we shall bring a number of examples. Theaters, which are visited by the minority upper strata of Israeli society, settled for "token" assistance during 1999. The National Theater of Be'er Sheva, for example, received "only" NIS 10 million, Haifa Theater NIS 11.4 million, Gesher Theater NIS 6.6 million, Orna Porat Theater NIS 2.5 million, the Dance Theater NIS 2.5 million, Beer Sheva Orchestra NIS 4.5 million, the New Israeli Opera NIS 17 million, the Fund for the Advancement of Cinema NIS 13.4 million, Habima Theater NIS 20.4 million, the Bat Sheva Dance Group NIS 5 million, and the Tel Aviv Chamber Theater NIS 11.8 million.

These figures do not, of course, include the other massive sums paid out by municipal authorities to these causes or income from other sources such as money from estates, Mifal Hapayis (the Israeli lottery) or other government offices.

Generally speaking, municipalities contribute about 40 percent of the public support of such institutions and the Education Ministry about 60 percent, but there are no hard and fast rules. Tel Aviv municipality, for example, paid out NIS 11,990,000 to the Chamber Theater in 1999 (slightly more than the Education Ministry) and NIS 11,800,000 to the Israeli Opera. The latter also received NIS 100,000 from the Custodian General.

Incidentally, browsing through the list of recipients of major sums we were amazed to find one yeshiva which received NIS 16 million. The mystery was solved as soon as we saw the yeshiva's name: Har Etzion. It belongs to the former Minister without Portfolio, Rav Yehuda Amital, head of Meimad.

Our Yerushalmi readers may be interested in some statistics from the cultural section of Jerusalem's municipality. The head of the Israel Museum's salary for the 1998 tax year, for example, stood at NIS 700,000, the head of the Jerusalem Theater received NIS 460,000, and the head of the Symphony Orchestra had to make do with NIS 400,000.

Other Government Budgets

If we take a look at the expenditure of other government departments, we notice that the vast majority of budgets set aside for social purposes are totally irrelevant to the chareidi community. Thus, we find funds allocated to the following: television, educational television, the Sports Authority, the Antiquities Authority (which desecrates Jewish graves and uses government money to fight the chareidi community and besmirch it), the Broadcasting Authority (note the findings of the Vardi Report, published about a year ago, which highlighted the corruption prevalent in that Authority, a hornet's nest of left-wing agitation).

Moreover most government departments in their present format have no relevance at all to the chareidi public's way of life. Take, for example, the Ministry of Justice and the courts, whose combined budget amounts to more than NIS one billion. These are increasingly at odds with and even oppose the chareidi community.

The police force b"H has almost no work in the chareidi sector; the Prisons Authority, drug rehabilitation, alcoholic beverages and so on all serve the secular sector almost exclusively. Even the Rabbinical Courts, which deal mainly with divorce cases, and the Chief Rabbis' office, mainly cater to the secular and non-chareidi religious public: chareidim have their own botei din and private kashrus organizations.

The Tourism, Science and Arts Ministries have virtually nothing to offer the chareidi population either. The Tourism Ministry invests tens of millions of shekels developing tourist sites, but spends much less developing sites of interest to the chareidi tourist. Numerous chareidi tourists come to Eretz Yisroel from chutz lo'oretz, but they are more or less ignored by the Israeli Tourism Ministry. Anyone touring the country, on the other hand, will be struck by the many sites developed by the Tourism Ministry for the general tourist public. In Kibbutz Ein Gev, for example, the Ministry of Tourism built a beautiful pier and promenade at an immense cost, for the tourists who come to visit the kibbutz.

We are unable in the context of this article to undertake an analysis of all the facts and figures regarding various government departments. Instead, we refer the reader to a research conducted by Manof on government department budgets which contains much detailed information.

Ivory Towers versus Torah Study-Halls

In 1998 Israel's seven recognized universities (Tel Aviv, Yerushalayim, Haifa, Be'er Sheva, Bar-Ilan, Technion, Machon Weizmann) had 104,900 students.

The total budget allocated by the Ministry of Finance in 1998 to higher education (designated almost exclusively for the seven big universities) was NIS 4.5 billion. For the financial year 2000, the budget for higher education stands at NIS 5.2 billion and the number of students has gone up to 111,300.

Thus, in 1998 every student cost the Israeli taxpayer almost NIS 43,000 a year, and more than NIS 3500 a month, and in the year 2000 every student cost about NIS 47,170 a year and about NIS 3930 a month.

The universities' entire budget is much bigger, since other sources of income have to be added to the above figures: student fees, local authority grants, donations, income from endowments as well as other funds stemming from the Finance Ministry's budget under various assorted names. The Hebrew University's budget for 1998, for example, was about NIS one billion and the number of students about 20,000; in other words, every student in 1998 cost NIS 50,000 a year, and about NIS 4150 a month. Thus, the national budget provides 84 percent of the costs per student. In the year 2000, a student cost about NIS 4500 a month.

We must leave it to the universities to explain where all the money goes and why students are made to pay fees, but anyone who pays a visit to the magnificent university campuses and gets to see lecturers' and professors' payment slips, bonuses and benefits, and hears about their sabbaticals, additional studies, conferences abroad and so on, as well as the large amount of departments with just a few students, will already know much of the answer.

Suffice it to say that according to the Report on Salary Irregularities published by Yuval Rachlevsky, who is responsible for salaries in the Finance Ministry, senior figures in Tel Aviv University earn tens of thousands of shekels at the expense of the Israeli taxpayer. The head of the Arts Department's salary is NIS 62,160 a month, the university's legal adviser earns NIS 61,565 a month, and a few other employees in senior positions also earn more than NIS 60,000 a month each.

Accountancy Institutes, the Open University and other private organizations corresponding to universities, make do with a much smaller budget (several dozen percent smaller), and still manage to remain profitable.

Figures for the yeshiva world are "slightly" more modest. An avreich's stipend today is NIS 726 a month, and a yeshiva bochur's government support is NIS 582 a month. In other words, the money received by one university student would be enough to finance seven yeshiva bochurim, and the salary of one senior figure in the higher education system enough to support a kollel of 100 avreichim by government standards!

If we consider that the average salary of a lecturer at an institute of higher education is more than NIS 25,000, that senior employees receive -- as we said -- around NIS 60,000 a month, that there are 4927 such employees in the higher education system, and a total of 19,173 other employees, including researchers and technical and administrative staff, we can begin to see the absurdity of the slogan, "money to universities, not to yeshivos!"

Various anti-religious circles complain about the (welcome) growth of the yeshiva world, but the number of university students in recent years has also risen dramatically. In 5730 (1969-70), there were 33,383 students. By 5750 (1989- 90), the number had almost doubled, in 5758 (1997-8) there were 104,900 students, and last year their number stood at 111,300.

Finally, we would like to take issue with the claim that the budget allocation to yeshivos should be in direct proportion to the size of the chareidi community in the population as a whole. There are a lot of people in Israel who do not learn in yeshivos, but are interested in Torah learning and support yeshiva bochurim. (Similarly, not all Israelis who support institutions of higher education are studying at universities, but society still supports these institutions, with very generous funds). The fact that such people exist, may be proved by their generous donations to yeshivos.


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