Haredim in Mea Shearim 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The government, with Yesh Atid in the vanguard, has successfully adopted a
number of measures to curb state benefits enjoyed by the haredi sector but has
yet to fulfill all promises made during the election and coalition-building
Significant cutbacks have been made to budgets for yeshivas,
child allotments and subsidized housing, but other promised reforms – such as
conditioning receipt of state benefits on being employed or seeking employment –
have been delayed, according to Hiddush, a religious equality lobbying group
that compiled a report on the government’s recent measures.
goal behind many of the reforms is to increase motivation in the haredi sector
to join the workforce, but haredi parties have strenuously opposed the steps,
labeling them draconian.
One of the most significant cutbacks has been
made to the budget for higher yeshivas for post-high school students and married
The official budget stood at NIS 909 million, although various
add-ons increased it to as much as NIS 1.2 billion a year.
The new budget
has cut this figure down to NIS 649m. for 2013 and NIS 422m. for
Another big cut has been made to grants provided for those buying a
home in provincial areas away from the main urban centers.
beginning of November the government will cancel a grant of NIS 100,000 that has
hitherto been given to anyone buying a home in one of 30 towns around the
country, including the new planned city of Harish, just east of Hadera, and a
new neighborhood called Har Yona in Upper Nazareth. Both locales were being
constructed principally for the haredi sector. Cancellation of the grant for
these two projects alone has cut half a billion shekels from the budget
according to Hiddush.
Budget cuts to child allotments have also been
Before 2003, a fourth child and higher in any given family
was eligible for a larger allotment than the first three, on an increasing scale
for every further child born to that family.
This greatly benefited
haredi, as well as Arab, families who generally have more children than the
average Israeli household. The increasing scale for child allotments was
abolished for children born after June 2003 and gradually reduced for those who
were already eligible before that date.
According to the new budget, the
maximum payment for such children will be NIS 350 as opposed to the previous sum
of NIS 500.
Child allotments for all other children, regardless of what
number child in the family they are, is NIS 140. This will mean another NIS
2.5b. will be saved.
Despite these cuts, Hiddush noted that several
important issues have not been sufficiently addressed. One such item is a
failure to implement the conditioning of all state benefits on being employed,
or seeking employment, for anyone fit to work.
It was expected that Yesh
Atid would push for such a policy, but only two benefits so far have been
conditioned on this principle – subsidized housing and child day care – which
will be implemented only on a gradual time scale.
Discounts in municipal
tax, which were slated to be conditioned on employment status, will now be
discussed separately from the budget.
Hiddush director and Reform Rabbi
Uri Regev said that the measures taken should be welcomed as part of the overall
plan to increase the participation of haredi men in the workforce, noting that
the steps taken were made possible by the exclusion of haredi parties from the
At the same time, Regev said that the other promised reforms,
especially the conditioning of the rest of state benefits on employment status,
were crucial in incentivizing full-time yeshiva students to enter the workforce.