Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will present the cabinet on Sunday with two
plans he hopes will increase haredi participation in the workforce by gradually
limiting government funding of kollel students and encouraging civilian service
among the ultra-Orthodox.
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Labor minister and security services head Ami Ayalon Sunday morning
told Army Radio that he had "not seen the government decision [on kollel
stipends], but that if haredim can [choose to] not serve in the army
and not do national service at the age of 22, then i think it is a very
Minister's Office Communications Director Nir Hefetz rejected criticism
of the Yeshiva Stipends reforms slated to be discussed in the cabinet, in an interview to Army Radio on Sunday."I cannot
understand the opposition [to the reforms]," Hefetz told Army Radio.
Under the plan, benefits would be slashed and limited to five years.
However, it was announced Sunday that the reforms would only apply to 10
percent of yeshiva students, according to Army Radio.
About 11,000 kollel students receive
The High Court of Justice ruled in June that the government
cannot continue paying stipends solely to haredim who study full time, while
other populaces such as university students are not eligible.
interministerial committee headed by Prime Minister’s Office director-general
Eyal Gabai was formed to find a way to accommodate thecourt’s ruling, and on Friday the PM’s Office jubilantly announced that after
some 30 years, “the allowances to kollel students will be significantly limited.
At the same time, scholarship funds for needy university students will be
doubled,” by the addition of NIS 50 million.
If approved, the new
policies will be implemented in five years.
Kollel students will be
eligible for the support for only five years, and the number of those who can
receive the allowance for an unlimited period – “constant learners” – will be
restricted to an estimated 2,000, according to the proposal that will be voted
on by the ministers on Sunday.
Backing for kollel students will be
limited to NIS 127m. per year. Some will receive the aid for five years – NIS
1,040 in the first four years, and 75 percent of that sum in the fifth
During that year, the students will be able to work half-days and
study during the other half of the day, and will be expected to be fully
employed by the end of the year.
Industry, Trade and Labor Minister
Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) , who is actively encouraging employment among
haredim, said on Friday that the proposal would perpetuate the lack of haredi
integration into the workforce, as well as poverty and unemployment in the
“The plan is a regression from the initial draft proposed,” he
said. “In the next five years there will be no progress, and the allotments
aren’t set to be conditioned on vocational training.
And yeshiva students
aged 29 and over – who account for more than 90% of yeshiva students in the
program – will be unemployed forever.”
On Friday, Kadima slammed
Netanyahu, who the opposition party claimed was “again lying to the
“The prime minister is evading his responsibilities and
forfeiting the country’s values for his personal survival,” Kadima said in a
statement. “The government’s proposal is entirely false. Netanyahu is deflecting
his responsibilities to the next government, increasing haredi yeshiva student
stipends to NIS 127m., increasing poverty in the haredi sector and further
widening the rift between the students... Netanyahu should bring the decision
for Knesset approval and not avoid public discussion.”
coalition partners didn’t announce an intention to bolt from the coalition
following the Gabai Committee recommendations.
United Torah Judaism
chairman Menahem Eliezer Mozes issued a statement on Friday expressing hope
“that in five years, Israel will have a different government that will cancel
the edict, a more humane government that will understand what neediness and
poverty are and enable the continuation of the world of Torah.”
The National Student Union, which filed the original
petition against the kollel stipends 10 years ago and has held demonstrations
around Israel over the past few months, credited their struggle with the “good
“We think these are good recommendations that will increase
solidarity in our society and make it a more egalitarian one,” union head Itzik
Shmuli said in a statement. “At the same time, we expect them to be legislated
in the Knesset to ensure their future implementation.”
praised Gabai for taking the students’ recommendations into account, “a
refreshing change in the regime’s attitude to the student
The cabinet will also be asked to vote on changes to the Tal
Law, which regulates haredi enlistment to the army and civilian service.
According to the the Gabai Committee’s recommendations, the number of haredim
serving in both tracks will double to 4,800 by the year 2015, and the automatic
exemption of 22-year-old kollel students from military service will be
Haredim who postpone their army service are currently
prohibited from entering the workforce.
By increasing the number of
haredim who serve in the IDF or in national service, the number of those who can
legally seek employment would grow.
Hiddush – For Religious Freedom and
Equality slammed the proposal.
In a letter it sent out to the cabinet
ministers ahead of the vote, the organization said that the government is, for
the first time ever, canceling the principle of a “people’s army” by granting a
sweeping exemption to an entire sector, which may choose civilian service
instead of the army. Gabai’s plan, the letter said, would harm the success of
the various IDF tracks aimed at haredim, which have proven successful and grown
over the years.
As for the proposals regarding the kollel stipends,
Hiddush called them “written on ice,” since anything could happen in Israeli
politics during the five years until they are implemented.
on the government to begin the cut within a year or 18 months, thus providing
kollel students sufficient time to find jobs.