(photo credit: Courtesy)
The government on Sunday approved a limit in the number of years yeshiva students can receive stipends to five years and reduced the number of who are entitled to unlimited studies, so-called "perpetual students." Fourteen ministers supported the bill, eight opposed it and three abstained from voting.
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The PMO noted that the decision changes the current situation where every yeshiva student was eligible to receive a stipend for many years. The government also budgeted NIS 50 million for under-privileged university students, as part of an aid fund.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called the move "the first step that any government has taken on the issue." He claimed that limiting the stipends would "encourage this population to integrate into the labor market and leave the cycle of poverty."
MK Yoel Hasson responded, "This is another Netanyahu exercise that shows contempt for a High Court decision and brings humiliation to the court." He added, "Netanyahu is lying to students and to IDF soldiers, and bought the support of the haredim with stipends, paid for by the entire public... There is no equality between students and there is only an increase in the stipends to the haredim." Hasson fired at the prime minister, "The public is tired of Netanyahu and his government's culture of lying."
Kadima responded that Netanyahu "sold the Israeli public, is training the draft-dodgers and has turned the IDF from a peoples' army to the 'IDF Inc.'" In order to win over the religious parties' support, the statement continued, "Netanyahu has chosen the culture of lies at the expense of equality, compelling the public to pay" for the cost of the government's "survivability." The Kadima statement said, "The decision evades responsibility, sells out the values of the state and spits in the face of the young generation that serves and contributes."High Court demands haredi, student equality
The High Court of Justice ruled in June that the government cannot continue paying stipends solely to haredim who study full time, while other populaces such as university students are not eligible.
An interministerial committee headed by Prime Minister’s Office
director-general Eyal Gabai was formed to find a way to accommodate the
court’s ruling, and on Friday the PM’s Office jubilantly announced that
after some 30 years, “the allowances to kollel students will be
significantly limited. At the same time, scholarship funds for needy
university students will be doubled,” by the addition of NIS 50 million.
Kollel students will be eligible for the support for only five years,
and the number of those who can receive the allowance for an unlimited
period – “constant learners” – will be restricted to an estimated 2,000,
according to the proposal approved by the ministers on Sunday.
Backing for kollel students will be limited to NIS 127 million per year.
Some will receive the aid for five years – NIS 1,040 in the first four
years, and 75 percent of that sum in the fifth year.
During that year, the students will be able to work half-days and study
during the other half of the day, and will be expected to be fully
employed by the end of the year.
The National Student Union, which filed the original petition against
the kollel stipends 10 years ago and has held demonstrations around
Israel over the past few months, credited their struggle with the “good
“We think these are good recommendations that will increase solidarity
in our society and make it a more egalitarian one,” union head Itzik
Shmuli said in a statement. “At the same time, we expect them to be
legislated in the Knesset to ensure their future implementation.”
Shmuli also praised Gabai for taking the students’ recommendations into
account, “a refreshing change in the regime’s attitude to the student
The cabinet will also be asked to vote on changes to the Tal Law, which
regulates haredi enlistment to the army and civilian service. According
to the the Gabai Committee’s recommendations, the number of haredim
serving in both tracks will double to 4,800 by the year 2015, and the
automatic exemption of 22-year-old kollel students from military service
will be canceled.
Haredim who postpone their army service are currently prohibited from entering the workforce.
By increasing the number of haredim who serve in the IDF or in national
service, the number of those who can legally seek employment would grow.