Tekuma rabbis call on Bayit Yehudi to oppose cuts to ‘Torah World’

Rabbis Dov Lior, Haim Steinner, Isser Kalonski and David Hai HaCohen look for support from conservative national religious party.

Naftali Bennett 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Naftali Bennett 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Four senior rabbis from the conservative wing of the national-religious movement issued a letter on Wednesday strongly criticizing the Bayit Yehudi party for allowing deep cuts to be made to yeshiva budgets and what they termed “the Torah world.”
Rabbis Dov Lior, Haim Steinner, Isser Kalonski and David Hai HaCohen, known as the Tekuma rabbis for their role as the spiritual advisers to the Tekuma political party, a constituent of the Bayit Yehudi Knesset faction, said they were “writing in the name of the community of the faithful of Israel which sees you as its emissaries and which sent you to guard the holy things of Israel, the Torah and the Land.”
The rabbis pointed out that the Tekuma party leaders had promised that along with the agreement to enter into coalition with Yesh Atid, Bayit Yehudi would “protect yeshivot and their students from being harmed,” and would also protect the “completeness of the Land” and the settlements.
“Despite this, we see these promises have not been fulfilled and the honor of the Torah and its students has been humiliated,” the four rabbis wrote.
The state budget passed at the end of the Knesset summer session includes a cut in yeshiva budgets from NIS 909 million in 2012 to NIS 422m. in 2014.
Yeshiva stipends for fulltime yeshiva students have also been drastically cut, from NIS 720 per month for married students to NIS 279, and from NIS 400 for single students to NIS 139.
These cuts effect haredi and national-religious yeshivas alike.
Steep cuts have also been made to National Insurance Institute child allotments, cuts which have been heavily opposed by the haredi political parties because of the large families in the ultra-Orthodox sector.
“We believe that silence at such a time is intolerable and we expect that in the name of the faithful of Israel you will fight strongly for the principles of our path, against harm to the Land of Israel, and against harmful expressions [aimed] toward each and every sector [of society] and for the honor of the Torah and its students,” the rabbis continued.
“We request... that you not rest or be silent until the injury is repaired to the Torah and its institutions, including injury to the religious institutions of the national-religious [sector], and to large families, may they increase, upon which the Jewish people depend.”
Tekuma represents the more hardline wing of the nationalreligious community, both politically and religiously, and the party’s rabbis have made frequent statements voicing their displeasure with Bayit Yehudi policies.
Notably, the Tekuma rabbis vigorously opposed expanding the electoral committee for the chief rabbis, as proposed in legislation by Hatnua MK Elazar Stern with the goal of diluting haredi influence on the committee. Bayit Yehudi ultimately did not support the bill and the legislation was not passed.
Bayit Yehudi officials did not respond to requests for comment on the rabbis’ letter.
However, a source in Bayit Yehudi told the Post: “Tekuma rabbis should remember that Bennett gave their MKs four seats and that they should go through private channels in the future if they are interested in the unity of the national religious public.”
Bayit Yehudi officials have pointed out in the past that Rabbi Dov Lior, perhaps the most influential of the four rabbis and one of the leading rabbinic authorities in the national-religious world, did not back Bayit Yehudi in the recent elections, and supported the hard-right Otzmah Le’Yisrael party instead.