The Education Ministry has issued a temporary order to enable it to continue the transfer of stipends to full-time yeshiva students, despite the fact that such funds were mandated by the “Tal Law” which expired on August 1.

Religious-freedom lobby group Hiddush accused the ministry of seeking to circumvent the law and change the funding criteria altogether, but a ministry spokeswoman said the status quo was merely being temporarily extended.

“No new criteria have been issued and the previous situation [before the expiration of the Tal Law] is simply being maintained through this temporary order,” the spokeswoman said.

The Tal Law provided the legal framework for full-time yeshiva students to indefinitely defer their military service, as well as established a monthly stipend of NIS 828 to be paid to such students – through the yeshivot – by the government.

Following the law’s expiration, Hiddush submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice demanding that the transfer of the government stipends to yeshivot be halted.

The current criteria for funding allowed the ministry to provide stipends only to someone with either a full exemption from military service or with a deferment in accordance with the Tal Law.

The expiration of the law means that 54,000 full-time yeshiva students, overwhelmingly from the haredi sector, lost their deferment status. As a consequence, Hiddush issued its petition that the High Court demand the Education Ministry freeze the transfer of the approximately NIS 30 million in funds, according to the organization.

The temporary order enables the ministry to transfer money for someone who received a deferment in the past through the Tal Law.

Hiddush slammed the order as “underhanded” and cast doubt on its legality.

Attorney Gilad Barnea, who filed the petition on behalf of Hiddush, said that the move proved that continued funding of yeshivot under the previous criteria was illegal.

Barnea added that the temporary order is “to the best of [his] knowledge... also illegal, and we’re talking about political opportunism which the Education Minister and the government legal adviser are complicit in.”

“It is clear that the government is more interested in appeasing the haredi parties and to continue to pay hundreds of millions of shekels in support for yeshiva students than to draft them, as it is obligated to according to the law,” Hiddush director Uri Regev added.

“Everything is kosher,” he continued, “including circumventing the courts and including such dubious opportunism.”

Regev said that Hiddush would take “every possible legal step” to prevent the funds being transferred.

Mickey Gitzin, director of the secularist lobbying group Be Free Israel, said that the Education Ministry was creating a “totally distorted reality.”

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t seem to matter a jot what the High Court or Israeli law says. The only thing that remains stable in Israel’s political reality is the transfer of funds to the yeshivot,” Gitzin said.

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