Bayit Yehudi: Put yeshiva budget in religious hands
Bayit Yehudi is "optimistic" the NIS 1.2 billion yeshiva budget will be transferred to Ministry of Religious Affairs, sources say.
Ultra-orthodox yeshiva students [illustrative] Photo: REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Sources in the Bayit Yehudi party say they are optimistic that the NIS 1.2
billion budget for yeshivot, currently controlled by the Education Ministry,
will be transferred to the Religious Affairs Ministry following the party¹s
coalition negotiations demands.
The transfer of yeshiva funds to the
Religious Affairs Ministry is part of an overall plan by Bayit Yehudi to bring
different authorities and religious frameworks back under the auspices of the
ministry, which the party is insisting on as one of the terms for joining the
A spokesman for the Yesh Atid party, which has set control of
the Education Ministry as an extremely high priority in the negotiations,
refused to comment on the matter.
The Religious Affairs Ministry was
dismantled in 2003 as part of coalition agreements between Tommy Lapid¹s
secularist Shinui party and Likud. It was re-established in 2008, but was
stripped of several crucial departments, including the state conversion
authority, the rabbinical courts system, and the chief rabbinate. Its budget is
currently NIS 400 million.
A source in Bayit Yehudi told The Jerusalem
Post on Monday that the party sees the reunification of the different religious
services provided by the state under one roof as a crucial part of its strategy
to revitalize the provision of such services to the public, and to ³create a
more inclusive provision of religious services for the Israeli public.² Hiddush,
a religious-freedom lobbying group, has said that it deeply opposes the move,
given the serious incidents of corruption at the ministry in the past, and the
strong possibility that the haredi parties will in the future regain control of
It seems possible that Bayit Yehudi will be given three, not four
ministries. In return for waiving a fourth ministry, the source said, the party
will insist on the repatriation of the assorted religious authorities to the
Religious Services Ministry which seems likely to go to the national religious
The Post understands that MK Eli Ben-Dahan, one of the leading
Bayit Yehudi candidates for the position, has put a high priority on
transferring the yeshiva budget to the Religious Services
Regarding the concerns that the large yeshiva budget will once
again return to the haredi parties in the future if it is removed from the
Education Ministry, the source said the party was concentrating on the coming
four years of the 19th Knesset and expressed optimism that the party¹s
performance will help it strengthen its political gains and keep control of the
ministry in the future.
There have been several notable corruption
scandals involving the budget for yeshivot even after its re-establishment in
2008. Fictitious yeshiva students have been added to the registration of some
yeshivot in order to gain extra funding, and fictional yeshivot have been placed
on the list of institutions eligible for government funding. Said vice-president
of Hiddush Shahar Ilan, ³Eli Ben-Dahan is an honest and qualified man but he
won¹t be the minister for ever.² ³Bayit Yehudi is building a monster of a
ministry which will end up again in the hands of Shas and once again the
corruption scandals will come back. It¹s like building an entrance for the thief
to enter, everyone will benefit by leaving the authority over the yeshivot in
the Education Ministry,² he said.
The haredi parties would prefer the
budget for the yeshivot to return to the Religious Services Ministry, partly so
that the institutions will avoid the reforms being planned by Yesh Atid for the
entire educational system.