A religious freedom lobbying group levelled heavy criticism at the Knesset on
Monday in its report on the parliament’s winter session, for failing to deal
with pressing concerns of religion and state.
The review, produced by the
pluralistic Hiddush organization, said that despite widespread discussion of the
issues in the Knesset, particularly regarding discrimination against women and
haredi (ultra-Orthodox) enlistment in the IDF, few practical achievements were
made in addressing these concerns.
Hiddush also singled out MK Moshe
Gafni of the ultra- Orthodox United Torah Judaism party for obstructing the
implementation of the Trajtenberg Committee’s recommendations pertaining to
education and employment in the haredi sector.
Gafni, who is chairman of
the Knesset Finance Committee, refused a request by The Jerusalem Post for
comment on the report.
MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), who was praised by
Hiddush for efforts to create greater separation between religion and state,
said in response to the report that haredi parties are waging war on secular
“They have succeeded in blocking almost all legitimate
initiatives relating to education, marriage, divorce, rabbinical courts,
conversion and other issues besides,” he told the Post. Although Horowitz
conceded that most recent governments have also not dealt adequately with the
issues, he called the current coalition’s record on religion and state matters
“far worse” than previous governments.
The Prime Minister’s Office denied
the claim that none of the Trajtenberg Committee’s recommendations regarding the
ultra-Orthodox sector have been implemented. It stated in response that the
government has in fact begun to implement some of the recommendations of the
committee – especially with regard to integration of haredim in the labor
Responding to an inquiry by the Post, the Prime Minister’s Office
pointed to several achievements, including the transfer of responsibility for a
government project providing public funding to support academic studies for 500
new haredi men every year – from the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor to
the Planning and Budget Committee of the National Council for Higher Education.
The office also cited the continuation of funding for this haredi student
project; the roll-out of a hi-tech educational project for ultra-Orthodox youth
who have left the yeshiva fold; and the projected opening by the end of the year
of an educational center for haredim in Jerusalem with capacity for 4,000
Hiddush’s Director, Reform Rabbi Uri Regev, said however that the
only way to deal with the issue in light of “haredi obstructionism” is for Likud
and Kadima to form a “civilian government” without any ultra-Orthodox parties –
in order to carry out “a revolution for religious freedoms and achieve equality
in sharing the burden of military service.”
“The public expects that the
recommendations of the Trajtenberg committee be implemented,” said Regev.
“Particularly the teaching of core curriculum subjects [in ultra- Orthodox
schools], haredi employment, the passage of an obligatory national service bill
instead of the Tal Law and legislation to curb discrimination against
Hiddush’s report noted that not one bill tackling the issue of
discrimination against women passed even a preliminary hearing.
permanent partnership between the ultra-Orthodox parties and the coalition has
again succeeded in neutralizing the Knesset’s ability to respond to developments
in matters of religion and state,” the report said.
The report pointed to
the Trajtenberg recommendations to limit government funding for full-time
yeshiva students to five years, and to obligate ultra- Orthodox elementary
schools to teach core-curriculum subjects – saying they have been
The report also cited Gafni’s comments to the Calcalist
newspaper in October: “I don’t recognize the Trajtenberg Report and it doesn’t
exist as far as I’m concerned. I will not bring up at all the chapter relating
to the ultra-Orthodox.
It is not relevant and is populist.”
later told the Knesset Channel that he would not raise the recommendations in
the finance committee that he chairs.