The High Court issued a temporary warrant on Thursday banning the government from distributing food stamps after accusations of discrimination were made.
The Knesset's Finance Committee had originally approved a budget of NIS 400 million earlier this week.
The money was approved to come from the Interior Ministry's reserve and was intended to be used for those in need ahead of Rosh Hashanah and the rest of the High Holidays.
The plan was approved on Tuesday with changes made to the original outline which was proposed by Shas leader Arye Deri.
Those eligible in the original outline were:
- families who are eligible for a 70% or higher discount on property tax. These families would receive NIS 300 a month for each parent and NIS 225 per child.
- Single mothers relying on child support. These women would only get NIS 600 a month regardless of how many children they had.
- Couples who relied on National Insurance to supplement their incomes due to low salaries. They would receive NIS 150 each and no extra money for children.
With this outline, a significant number of Holocaust survivors in need would have been left out, but Chairwoman of the Holocaust Survivors Treatment Committee MK Merav Cohen announced that changes were made on Tuesday to ensure that some 41,000 Holocaust survivors would also get the help they need from the food stamps.
Another change that was made was that families eligible for a discount on property tax will only receive money per child up to eight children and single mothers relying on child support will be given money per child for up to two children.
"I sleep well at night knowing that we are helping the weakest people, the poorest people no matter where they live," said Health and Interior Minister Moshe Arbel.
He added that in regard to Holocaust survivors, eight million shekels were set aside to help those who were most in need.
Disappointment over aspects of the plan
Cohen said that she was happy that the outline had been expanded to help Holocaust survivors but was disappointed that they hadn't achieved a more equal plan between the larger families and the single mothers.
"We made a promise and we kept it," said Deri. "The food stamp initiative for needy families in Israel is underway. I congratulate the Finance Committee on approving the budget so that we can start the first stage ahead of the High Holidays."
According to data presented by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, just over 40% of Israelis will have to cut down on spending in order to afford food for Rosh Hashanah, and 30% will need aid.
On Thursday, the Movement for the Quality of Government and the Hiddush – For Religious Freedom and Equality organization petitioned the High Court of Justice to block the food stamps because they claimed the criteria set favored haredi families under the guise of "food security".
The petition listed a number of legal bases for the High Court to block the plan: The authority for the plan belongs to the Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry, and there was no Knesset approval to pass them over to the Interior Ministry; a lack of consultations with the National Food Security Council who legally has to weigh in on such matters, discriminatory criteria that favors haredi families; and giving out the food stamps by Rosh Hashanah prevents families who need them but weren't food eligible from appealing the matter.
The organizations asked the High Court to block the food stamps and instruct the budget to be returned to the Welfare Ministry so that it could be "distributed legally," and the High Court issued the warrant on Thursday evening.
UTJ MK Moshe Gafni condemned the move, saying that the committee had held a long and detailed discussion before passing the plan unanimously so that they could start handing out the food stamps before the beginning of the High Holidays.
"The petition and the High Court's decision today shows a complete disconnect between the facts and the social need for food stamps for the needy, the elderly, and Holocaust survivors."
Housing and Construction Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf echoded Gafni's comments, saying that "if the judges knew the needy community, they would definitely have made a different decision."