The budget for 2013 and 2014 presented on Tuesday will have a dramatic impact on
the haredi community.
Various provisions in the document will make state
benefits dependent on participation in the workforce, and funding for
educational institutions will depend on the integration of secular studies into
the ultra-Orthodox education system.
The provisions have generated fury
among haredi politicians, who have vowed to fight the new budget.
Torah Judaism MK Menachem Eliezer Mozes, who served as deputy education minister
in the last government, condemned the budget proposals as a transparent plan to
change the haredi way of life.
In particular, he criticized provisions
that he said would cause haredi women, whose rate of employment is just slightly
less than non-haredi women, to leave the workforce.
Speaking to The
Jerusalem Post, Mozes added that the political ramifications for Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu, if he allows the budget with its provisions relating to the
haredi community to pass, would be extremely costly both to him and the Likud
party in the long term.
One of the most important principles of the
budget with regard to the haredi community is the provision that certain state
benefits be made dependent on whether both parents are employed and working to
the fullest extent of their capabilities.
According to the new budget,
discounts for municipal tax will continue to be means-tested but will only be
granted to a household with two breadwinners who are fulfilling at least 125
percent of the potential amount of two full-time jobs, meaning that if a full
time job is 40 hours a week, then the couple would need to be working a combined
total of at least 50 hours a week to qualify for the benefit.
tax is a significant expense for a general household budget and many haredi
households currently receive a substantial discount for it.
While 61% of
haredi women work, just 48% of haredi men are employed, and so the budget clause
on municipal tax will revoke the discount for many ultra- Orthodox
“The granting of [municipal tax discounts] on a means-tested
basis without requiring the heads of the household to be employed, creates a
clear disincentive against entering the work force,” the Treasury wrote in the
explanatory notes on the issue.
Child daycare subsidies will also be
conditioned on the employment of both heads of a household, as will the granting
of housing benefits, with additional benefits available to anyone who performed
Mozes claimed that the provisions on child daycare
would lead many ultra- Orthodox women to leave the workforce, since the cost of
paying non-subsidized childcare would be too high to make employment a viable
Hiddush, a religious-freedom lobbying group, cast doubt
on this notion, saying that taken together with the other cuts to the average
haredi household finances inherent in the new budget, the new terms for state
benefits would leave many haredi couples with no option but for both members to
The Treasury has also created new stipulations for the
funding of ultra-Orthodox schools which demand the teaching of core curriculum
subjects in order to receive full financial support from the
The large majority of Ashkenazi haredi male pupils in
elementary schools study very little if any secular subjects.
Sephardi haredi elementary education system teaches the full state curriculum,
but almost no haredi high-school aged pupils, Ashkenazi or Sephardi, study any
secular studies at all.
The new budget will require haredi schools to
teach three core subjects: Mathematics, English and Hebrew or Arabic, at the
same level as taught in nonharedi state schools, and submit pupils to
If haredi schools fail to meet this requirement
they will receive a maximum of just 30% of the state funding available to state
schools that teach the full requirement of hours for the three core
This 30% funding will itself be conditional on teaching 55% of
the state curriculum and the submission of pupils to standardized
The requirement to teach the state core curriculum will be
introduced gradually over a four-year period.
“The number of pupils in
haredi education institutions will reach 26% by the end of the decade,” the
Treasury explained in the budget document.
“The level of employment and
productivity in the haredi sector is significantly lower than in the non-haredi
sector because, among other reasons, the absence of basic studies, which are a
central component in the acquisition of appropriate tools for entering the
workforce,” it stated.
Mozes argued that the intensive study of complex
Talmudic legal texts, a major component of the haredi education system, provides
pupils with keen learning abilities with which they are able to quickly
assimilate secular studies in the remedial classes provided by academic colleges
that offer professional degree courses for haredi students.
Asked how the
haredi community would deal with the shortfall in funding if the budget is
passed in its current format, Mozes said wryly “we survived Pharaoh, we’ll
survive this too.”
He also hinted, none too subtly, that the budget was
putting the historic ties between Likud and the ultra-Orthodox parties at
“We have been Bibi’s best and most loyal supporters, and our
support has allowed him to remain prime minister until now,” said the MK.