(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A Torah lesson in the Knesset plenum by MK Sharon Gal (Yisrael Beytenu) on the importance of working for a living sparked outrage among haredi lawmakers Wednesday, with United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni him and his party “evil.”
Gal quoted extensively from Jewish texts during a debate on the government’s decision to cancel the requirement that both parents work as a criterion for their children’s acceptance into government-subsidized daycare. The condition, which the previous government had put in place, meant that families in which the father was studying in yeshiva full-time and the mother working full-time did not qualify for childcare.
As such, the haredi parties, which are now in the coalition, had the new government cancel it – a move that led to complaints from opposition MKs.
“‘If there is no flour, there is no Torah,’” Gal said, quoting from the Mishna. “Thus, our sages wrote that a man must teach his son a trade, so that there will not be a situation in which he cannot support himself and he will become a burden on his society.”
Gal told the haredi MKs he was quoting “from your everyday world,” pointing out that the Talmud says a person “enjoys the fruit of his labor more than fear of the Heavens,” and that in Psalms it says, “When you eat from the labor of your hands, you will be happy and all will be well with you.” He further quoted the Mishna as stating that “all Torah that does not come with work will be canceled in the end and causes sinning.”
According to Gal, not tying government daycare subsidies to work is a mockery, and sentences thousands of families to poverty because the parents continue not to work for a living.
Yesh Atid MK Mickey Levy, whose party was instrumental in requiring parents to work in order to qualify for subsidized childcare in the last Knesset, called the government’s plan to change it back outrageous.
“The government is trying... to prevent people from going to work and increase poverty. It is hurting the haredi population more than any other. We aren’t against haredim, we want to connect them to Israeli society,” he said.
Haredi lawmakers, meanwhile, charged that Yisrael Beytenu and Yesh Atid wanted the law to discriminate against the wives of full-time yeshiva students.
MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) shouted throughout the debate, calling Gal an anti-Semite.
“Shut your mouths, you evil ones. Your cruelty is well known,” Gafni said. “There is not one area of the haredi public’s life in which you did not try to harm us. Thank God the government fell apart.”
Economy Minister Arye Deri, who is responsible for the subsidized daycare centers, said that for years, while the haredim were in the opposition, they tried to speak to the coalition and explain their needs, but instead, the government passed dozens of laws that hurt them.
“I am for a discourse and discussion, and I am willing to sit and talk, but you should understand how we felt until now,” Deri said. “For two years, no one was willing to listen to us.”
Deri asked the opposition not to turn daycare centers into a topic of dispute, because they were meant to help the weak.
“I don’t discriminate against other population groups,” he said. “I am only removing the discrimination against haredi women.”