Haredi MKs urge Peres to sway gov't on budget

United Torah Judaism MKs Litzman, Porush ask president to intercede on their behalf against "discriminatory" budget cuts.

June 6, 2013 13:37
3 minute read.
President Peres meets UTJ MKs Litzman and Porush.

President Peres meets UTJ MKs Litzman and Porush.. (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)

United Torah Judaism MKs Ya’acov Litzman and Meir Porush have called on President Shimon Peres to intercede on behalf of the haredi community against the harsh budgetary edicts, which Litzman termed “the finger of persecution” that threatens the haredi lifestyle. The two MKs met privately with Peres in his office before meeting with journalists.

No other sector of society has been discriminated against to this extent, said Litzman on Thursday, noting that the budgetary allocation for the renowned Mir Yeshiva is to be slashed by 70 percent. He expressed concern that under such circumstances, the yeshiva would be unable to continue to exist, much less provide for foreign students.

The sanctions to which the haredi community will be subjected were not included in the coalition agreements, but were introduced afterwards, he said. No matter to what extent haredi spokespeople tried to explain the disproportionate impact of budgetary cuts on the haredi community, no one was willing to take notice, he lamented.

Litzman – who was deputy health minister in the previous government – expressed particular worry about how cuts in child allotments would affect the nourishment not only of haredi children but of children in lowincome families throughout the country. “Every child should be able to receive a cup of leben and a piece of cheese every day,” he said, emphasizing that his request for the president’s intervention was not of a political nature but of a humanitarian one.

His plea was echoed by Porush, who said that haredim comprised 14 percent of the voter turnout in the last Knesset elections, implying that the haredim had exercised their democratic right, and should be treated in accordance with the rules of democracy. “This is not a coalition versus opposition thing,” he said.

“It’s an existential thing.”

Porush recalled that Israel’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, had told the United Nations that Israel was a homeland for all Jews, and had treated haredim with dignity and respect.

With its anti-haredi edicts, the budget defies all previous norms, said Porush. If it is passed and other impositions are forced on the haredi community, he added, Israel will no longer be a homeland for all Jews. He entreated Peres to find some way to enable the haredi community to continue its lifestyle with dignity.

Peres cited the across-the-board agreement that no child in Israel – secular or religious, Jewish or Arab – should go hungry. As for haredim joining the work force, the president made his views very clear. “Whoever doesn’t learn must work,” he said.

Peres only made passing reference to the issue of military service for Haredim, but made clear that he did not intend to allow haredim to get off the hook too lightly. The number of haredim exempt themselves from army service is far in excess of anything that Ben-Gurion had agreed to, and the system has been abused, he said.

“I don’t want religious coercion and I don’t want anti-religious coercion,” said Peres, who undertook to speak to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid with a view to finding a happy medium.

After the UTJ MK’s meeting with Peres in his office, Porush said that they had found a willing ear.

“Peres is a disciple of Ben Gurion and he respects tradition,” said Porush. “We expected more from the prime minister after we helped him politically [during the election period], but he forgot.”

Waiting for the press meeting to start, one of the haredi journalists present told secular colleagues that they could not even begin to imagine the amount of community welfare work done by haredi individuals and organizations.

When Porush was asked why this was not brought up when haredim are accused of not sharing the burden, his reply was that “Not everything has to be political.”

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