Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of the United Torah Judaism party sits with other ministers in Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government during a Knesset session, November 23.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni agreed on Sunday to withdraw a private bill that would abolish obligatory core curriculum studies in haredi schools after Education Minister Naftali Bennett reportedly said he was preparing a government bill on the issue.
The current law, conditioning the size of the budget received by a particular institution from the Education Ministry on the teaching of at least 11 hours per week of English, math and science, was passed during the last government on the insistence of Yesh Atid but was never properly enforced.
The law was supposed to reduce the funding of what are known as “exempt institutions” and “other recognized but unofficial” schools, which the majority of male haredi pupils attend for their elementary education, from 55 percent and 75%, respectively, to just 30%.
In practice, these penalties were not enacted due to legal problems that were raised and due to the lack of teachers and inspectors for the haredi schools to implement the law.
UTJ, nevertheless, insisted in its coalition agreement with Likud that the law be repealed, owing to the possible future threat that the law could be enforced.
Gafni had scheduled a hearing on his private bill on the issue for Sunday’s meeting of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, but withdrew it from the agenda after Bennett reportedly told him he would shortly introduce a government bill to deal with the matter.
A spokesperson for Bennett did not respond to a request for comment.
National-religious lobbying group Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avoda called on Bennett to change direction, saying such a law would have serious implications for the future of the state.
“The phenomenon in which a population numbering tens of thousands of men who do not support themselves is not found anywhere in Jewish history nor in the history of the haredi community living outside of Israel,” said NTA.
“We are surprised that it is a national-religious education minister who is the one poised to give up on [mandatory core curriculum studies] because of political pressure, great as it may be,” it added.