Haredi ultra-orthodox yeshiva students 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
The High Court of Justice sharply questioned the state’s stance on income
support payments for married, full-time yeshiva students during a hearing on
Thursday into the issue.
In June 2010, the court ruled that these
payments were discriminatory since students not attending institutions of
religious study are not entitled to them.
Just over 10,000 married,
full-time yeshiva students receive the income support payments of NIS 1,040 a
month, which is restricted to those who are married, with three or more children
and whose total monthly income is less than NIS 1,200.
approximately 54,000 full-time yeshiva students in total, the overwhelming
majority of whom belong to the haredi community.
These students are
entitled to monthly stipends of NIS 828 from the government, separate from any
other state benefits they might be entitled to, such as income
To address the court’s 2010 ruling, the government drew up new
terms for the allotment of income support for married, full-time yeshiva, or
Kollel, students in December 2010, limiting the period for receiving the money
to five years for students under the age of 29.
Those already above the
age of 29, approximately 80 percent of the students receiving the income support
benefit, would be able to continue claiming the payments
The government’s new arrangement limited the total fund for
full-time yeshiva students’ income support to NIS 120 million, but also provided
an extra NIS 50 million for university students in need of financial
It further stipulates that the payments will be reduced by 25%
in the fifth and final year of a student’s eligibility for them.
organizations, including the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), the National
Student Union, religious-freedom lobbying group Hiddush, and the Masorti
Movement, petitioned the High Court of Justice in January 2011, arguing that the
government’s new arrangement was essentially the same as the previous one which
the court had ruled illegal.
During the hearing, the state attorney
argued that the government is investing in several different tools to encourage
and assist yeshiva students receiving the payments to integrate into the work
force after the five-year period in which they are entitled to the income
However, Supreme Court Justice Miriam Naor questioned the logic
of the state’s arguments, asking “how is the fact that giving a person money
brings him closer to integration into the work force? Logic dictates that if you
don’t give him money [then] he will have to work.”
IRAC attorney Orli
Erez- Lahovsky also argued that in addition to discriminating against
non-yeshiva students, the income support allocations also discriminate against
other citizens requesting income support, since they are required to demonstrate
that they are either working or looking for work, whereas yeshiva students are
exempt from such obligations.
Supreme Court President Justice Asher
Grunis pointed out to the state attorney that the five-year limit on receiving
the income support payments was only applicable to 20% of those currently
claiming the benefits.
At the end of the hearing Grunis said that he
would consider expanding the panel of judges presiding over the case, and added
that this would not require a further hearing nor would it delay a ruling on the
Hiddush Director Uri Regev derided the state’s claims following
the hearing that it has reformed the allocation of the income support funds,
saying that instead of bringing about social change it was enabling kollel
students to remain in yeshiva and not go out to work.
“It’s sad to see
the state, which reveals such great fear regarding the issue of drafting haredi
yeshiva students into the army, also demonstrating such decisiveness in
continuing to support them,” Regev added.
A ruling on the matter is now