Israel has not benefited from teaching core subjects such as math and English to Israeli youth in secular schools, United Torah Judaism (UTJ) chairman Yitzchak Goldknopf argued on Channel 12's Meet The Press program aired on Saturday evening.
In his interview, the new UTJ head claimed math and English studies had no effect on Israel's economy in an attempt to justify the lack of these subjects in haredi (ultra-Orthodox) schools across Israel.
"Haredi schools are denied their budgets by the government because they don't teach English and math..why? they tell me 'because in 20 years,'" he said, referring to the struggles young haredis face when trying to integrate into Israel's business and tech sectors.
יו״ר יהדות התורה החדש, יצחק גולדקנופף: ״מונעים תקציבים מבתי הספר החרדיים כי הם לא לומדים מתמטיקה ואנגלית. למה? ׳כי בעוד 20 שנה…׳ אני שומע את המשפט הזה כבר 20 שנה - לא ראיתי שהמתמטיקה קידמה את המדינה בכלכלה״@amit_segal @BenCaspit @N12News pic.twitter.com/7O38PsGF2J— פגוש את העיתונות (@pgosh_MTP) October 15, 2022
The political battle over ultra-Orthodox schools
In June, Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton announced the launch of a new program to encourage core studies in ultra-Orthodox educational institutions.
The program, which was set in motion before the announcement of an election, will be implemented as early as the start of the next school year and will not be mandatory.
However, the opposition led by Likud head MK Benjamin Netanyahu opposed the Education Ministry's program, with the former prime minister pledging to raise the budget of haredi institutions that do not teach core studies.
Netanyahu made the promise as part of an agreement between UTJ's two factions, Degel HaTorah and Agudat Yisrael, who were on the verge of a split prior to Netanyahu's pledge.
Goldknopf's gaffs and condemnations from the Left
Despite not yet serving as an MK, Goldknopf has caused several stirs due to controversial comments made since becoming UTJ chief. In a Channel 13 interview earlier in October, Goldknopf claimed that "it is more difficult to study Torah than it is to stand on the frontlines."
Goldnkopf's statements received harsh criticism from coalition leaders, with Liberman accusing the UTJ head of "disrespecting IDF soldiers while eyeing up the Finance Ministry to fund those who don't work and don't benefit society."
"Only a strong Yisrael Beytenu will keep Goldnkopf and his friends in the opposition while integrating the haredi population into Israeli society," the finance minister wrote on Twitter.
Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli (Labor) also condemned Goldnkopf's claims, writing on Twitter that he has done more to "destroy Haredi society than he is doing to destroy secular society."
יותר משגולדקנופף מחרב את העתיד של החילונים, הוא מחרב את העתיד של החרדים. חברה בלי לימודי ליבה היא חברה בלי עתיד, בלי תקווה, בלי חלום.מגיע לציבור החרדי בתי ספר ממלכתיים חרדים שיקנו להם את החופש לבחור. זאת האמת שלנו ואנחנו נלחמות עליה.— Merav Michaeli מרב מיכאלי (@MeravMichaeli) October 15, 2022
"A society without core curriculum studies is a society with no future, no hope, no dreams," the Labor chairwoman continued. "Haredim deserve state-haredi schools that give them the freedom to choose. That's our truth, and we're fighting for it."