An expanded, seven-justice panel of the High Court of Justice on Sunday unanimously threw out as unconstitutional the payment of approximately NIS 1,000 per month in subsidies by the state to some 10,000 haredim who study in yeshivot and do not work.
Justice Elyakim Rubinstein wrote the court’s opinion.
The subsidies were part of a government policy to get around a 2011 court ruling invalidating the subsidies for haredim as unfair discrimination and favoritism. The new policy attempted to set an objective standard by giving the subsidies to haredim for four years to those who did not work, but who studied at least 35 hours per week, and had at least three children.
Sunday’s High Court ruling said that the revised policy still failed to pass a fairness test and still favored haredim in a discriminatory fashion.
Rubinstein said that the new policy’s “stated purpose underlying the government’s decision was fitting,” as it tried to voluntarily push haredim toward working by setting standards which not all of them could meet – but that it fell short by failing to prepare Haredim for entering the workforce after the four-year subsidy expired.
The High Court decision addresses only directly paid subsidies and does not impact the new major law that reset the entire balance of haredi obligations regarding serving in the IDF, as well as haredi institutions receiving subsidies which they can pass on to their students.
Rubinstein apparently left an opening for the state to potentially take one more crack at a new policy for a select few, highly talented haredi Torah scholars.
Hiddush and other NGOs which had submitted the petition said the court decision was virtually an indictment of “moral turpitude” against the government regarding the struck down subsidies policy.
Hiddush director Shahar Ilan said the decision validated Hiddush’s “claim that the so-called reform put forth by the prior coalition” was “not a reform at all,” and that its only purpose was to continue “to pay arbitrary and discriminatory payments” to haredim.
He expressed satisfaction that the policy had been sent “to the garbage bin of history.”
UTJ party leader Moshe Gafni condemned the “disgraceful” ruling against “Torah scholars” as fitting for this “period which we are living in” when haredim are, as he sees it, under attack.
He explicitly rejected Rubinstein’s reading of traditional Jewish sources in favor of working and against perpetual Torah study and said he hoped “we will not get to a point where the air breathed by the haredi public will be thought of” as special treatment.