Ultra-Orthodox media, politicians livid over cuts to yeshiva stipends

UTJ MK calls Bayit Yehudi "dirt rag of Lapid and Bibi"; Bayit Yehudi source say cuts might be ameliorated by “extra-budgetary funds.”

Ponevezh Yeshiva 521 (photo credit: Philippe Bellaiche)
Ponevezh Yeshiva 521
(photo credit: Philippe Bellaiche)
Haredi politicians and media have reacted furiously to deep cuts to stipends received by yeshiva students which are due to take effect this month.
In 2012, full-time married yeshiva students received NIS 900 a month, while single students received 500 shekels a month in government stipends, while in 2013, the stipends were reduced to NIS 720 for married students and NIS 400 for single students.
As of this month, married students will now receive just NIS 279 while single students will get NIS 139, the Association of Yeshivot has said.
Although the cuts were expected, a source in United Torah Judaism said that the reduction was expected to be not more than 50 percent.
UTJ and the haredi media have denounced the cuts and are blaming Bayit Yehudi and its chairman, Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett, in particular for failing to prevent the steep decline in funding.
Bayit Yehudi officials would not comment directly on the accusations that they had allowed deeper cuts to yeshiva stipends than promised, but a source in Bayit Yehudi told The Jerusalem Post that the cuts will possibly be ameliorated to some degree by “extra-budgetary funds” slated for yeshivot.
Officials in the Association of Yeshivot expressed skepticism about such claims.
UTJ MK Yisrael Eichler said Bayit Yehudi politicians were acting as the “dirt rags” of the Treasury and Finance Minister Yair Lapid, and called on the party to topple “the evil government” and leave the coalition in order to prevent budget cuts to yeshivot and child allotments.
“Bayit Yehudi people went around [saying they had] a commitment from the Treasury to provide an extra NIS 130 million for yeshivot beyond what was [included] in the budget,” Eichler alleged.
“This gave them a pathetic excuse to support a cruel budget that harms their own children.”
Eichler continued, taunting Bayit Yehudi for being part of a government that released “100 murderers with blood on their hands and [acquiesced] to advanced talks for the establishment of a Palestinian state on the ruins of their own homes,” two sensitive topics for the national-religious party and its voters.
“With the breaking of these commitments, the Bayit Yehudi people have become the dirt rags of Lapid and Bibi,” Eichler said.
“They’re using you like a ‘use and discard’ product. Today they’re using you to burn the sanctuaries of Torah and tomorrow your ‘brothers’ will chuck you from your houses in the settlements, as they are accustomed to, but ‘sensitively.’” A spokesman for Bayit Yehudi said in response to Eichler’s comments, “It is better to deal with matters one wishes to resolve with sensitivity and responsibility, and not with hasty statements to the media, and we hope that MK Eichler also understand this.”
MK Uri Maklev, also of UTJ, said that nothing Bayit Yehudi’s leaders said could be trusted.
“This is an integrated war, these cuts are not only in the budget but are designed to chop off every branch of the Torah and the yeshivot,” Maklev told haredi newspaper Yated Neeman.
“This government, a government of destruction, evil and annihilation, is not fitting to support the Torah world. It cannot be forgotten that supporting the yeshiva world is not only righteous act but one which is a merit as well.
“This merit as well they do not have and as this government wages war against the Torah world, it just intensifies and sharpens the depth of the divisions between us,” declared Maklev.
Yated Neeman, one of the largest selling haredi dailies and the mouth piece of the Degel HaTorah party, one of the two constituent parties of the UTJ Knesset faction, said the cuts represented an almost complete liquidation of yeshiva student stipends and part of a campaign of unceasing persecution.
In its Monday editorial, the paper wrote that the results of the cuts to stipends would be “the starvation of Torah students” and that the purpose of the cuts was “coercive conscription on the one hand and breaking the taps on the other.”
“Two hands gripping on tight in order to strangle. One is of Lapid’s party, the other is that of Bennett’s.”
The paper wrote that anyone who cuts yeshiva budgets or enables “such evil people is participating in a crime for which it is worthy of being cursed.”