young haredis studying 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Ministerial Committee on Legislation is expected to vote down a
controversial bill on Sunday that would reinstate stipends for men who
study Torah full-time, due to opposition from Labor, Likud, and Israel
United Torah Judaism threatened to quit the coalition if the stipends
did not pass by the end of the year. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz met
with Shas chairman Eli Yishai and Knesset Finance Committee chairman
Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) late Saturday night to discuss the
High Court: Income guarantees to kollel students unlawful
Analysis: The Right Not to Work
The proposal, sponsored by haredi and religious-Zionist MKs, proposes giving scholarships to kollel students with at least three children and no other source of income. Other conditions for receiving a stipend are that the student not own land or a car, and that his wife not work, either.
"The purpose of this law is to anchor the right of kollel students to
receive stipends and establish unified rules for granting them," the
bill reads. "The state sees a great importance in encouraging Torah
study, which is a central value in the life of the Jewish people.
Therefore, we propose allowing a modest stipend for kollel students that
have chosen to follow this path."
The bill would circumvent the Supreme Court¹s mid-June ruling that put
an end to income guarantees for yeshiva students. At the time, the
Supreme Court said that such guarantees were discriminatory, because
they were not given to university students, as well.
The court ruled that they can not be included in the 2011 state budget.
The proposed bill points out that the state¹s budget allows for NIS 450
million in aid for university students, and only NIS 121 million for
In the explanatory section of the bill, the sponsors wrote: "The voice
of Torah was not silenced even in the darkest periods in Jewish history,
and much of the public sees Torah learning in kollels as promoting the
essence of the Jewish people's existence and the guarantee of their
Education Minister Gideon Saar called the bill "bad for Israel and its
economy." He said dialogue was needed with the haredim to reach a
proposal that would be more fair.
Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, who chairs Labor's Knesset faction,
said Labor's representatives on the legislation committee would oppose
the bill because it would put an unjustified burden on the state's
Labor leadership candidates Isaac Herzog and Avishay Braverman condemned
the bill, with Herzog saying it would harm efforts to bring haredim
into the work force and Braverman warning that passing the bill would be
tantamount to spitting in the faces of the country's university
Kadima released a statement saying that the bill would serve as a test for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
"He will have to prove whether his political survival is more important
to him than the High Court," a Kadima spokesman said. "In a democratic
country, the courts rule and governments abide by the courts' decisions.
If Netanyahu bypasses the High Court, he will be bypassing democracy
and making a mockery of the public."
An official in the Prime Minister's Office responded that the bill does
not bypass the high court and merely legislates an arrangement that has
been going on for 20 years, which he court requested be set in law.
Gafni's spokesman Yerach Tucker said the bill's opponents were
hypocrites. He said the bill would not add a shekel to the state budget
and that every government paid the stipends, including when Kadima was
Coalition chairman Ze'ev Elkin said he believed that the bill would fall
and that an arrangement could then be reached with the haredim that
could allow equality for college and kollel students.Jonah Mandel contributed to this report