Hesder group: Defense Ministry withholding funds

Association of yeshivot accuses ministry of denying money over battle with Knesset Finance Committee.

Hesder (photo credit: Jerusalem Post staff)
(photo credit: Jerusalem Post staff)
The Association of Hesder Yeshivot said on Sunday that many of its member organizations are in dire financial straits because 2011 funds the Defense Ministry allocated to it have still not been transferred.
Hesder yeshivot are Jewish seminaries whose students combine their religious studies with army service, usually over a period of five years.
According to the association, the money supplied by the Defense Ministry usually makes up approximately 30 percent of its overall budget.
The association, made up of 60 yeshivot, cited the concerns of “a number of officials” who believe the ministry is using the hesder yeshiva budget as a “bargaining chip” with the Knesset Finance Committee to extract funding for various programs from the committee.
According to these sources, because there are several religious- Zionist MKs on the Finance Committee who view hesder yeshivot as particularly important, the Defense Ministry has taken this opportunity to wrest the funds it is demanding from the committee.
The ministry said in response that it “rejects the claims that it is withholding any money as a bargaining chip. The ministry sees the hesder yeshivot as very important and does not intend to harm them.”
According to MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi), who is a member of the finance committee, only NIS 7 million of the association’s NIS 22 million budget for 2011 has been transferred, despite the fact that the year has nearly ended.
“I have personally asked the Defense Ministry why the funds haven’t been transferred and I have yet to hear a clear explanation regarding this matter,” Orlev told The Jerusalem Post. “I have no idea why they are withholding the money, there doesn’t seem to be any formal economic or legal obstacle here.”
As to the claims that the ministry is using the budget of the Hesder yeshivot as a bargaining chip, Orlev said that these are only rumors, but that he hopes they are not true.
“This is the speculation being heard in the corridors,” he said. “If it is true then the ministry would essentially be acting like the mafia, trying to get me to behave like a good boy in the committee and vote how they want me to.”
Orlev said that he has requested a hearing in the finance committee to hear directly from the ministry the reasons why it has not transferred the funds.
The association said that if the process of transferring the funds does not begin in the next few days, many of the yeshivot will be subject to severe financial shortfalls. It stated that many yeshivot have already delayed paying employees’ salaries as well as assorted bills to various suppliers.
According to Eitan Ozeri, director of the Association of Hesder Yeshivot, if the money is not transferred by the end of 2011, the process will be delayed for at least another three months. The funds are usually transferred at the end of the year, but this year the process has not even begun, Ozeri said.