Politics, Religion

Discriminatory Anti-Haredi Legislation Revoked

From Haaretz:

The Education Ministry has announced that it has revoked its decision to exclude students at ultra-Orthodox educational institutions from postwar rehabilitation funds for the north.

For a little background, it is already known that “ultra-Orthodox” schools are “not officially part of the state system”. For that matter, neither are “Church schools” in the “Arab sector.” However, we are not talking about the implementation of an improvement in the educational experience, as the long school-day program would have been — which was drafted with the omission of haredi schools in mind. Such a thing is not only an ongoing expense, as it entails a curriculum change to be implemented indefinitely, but it also includes that which is “not part of the educational system” in the budget of allocations for the educational system for that particular school year.
This, however, is legislation regarding postwar rehabilitation funds. A one-time expense to fix up the results of a lamentable turn of events. War affects all equally — Katyushas did not perform an Exodus-esque skipping of houses with mezuzot attached. All children in Israel deserve structurally sound schools and the return of some degree of normalcy to their adolescence. Citizens of a country affected by war look to that country to provide them with at least some of the necessary tools to rebuild their lives.

The decision follows severe criticism leveled at the ministry by the Knesset Education Committee on Wednesday.
Approximately NIS 170 million out of a planned NIS 700 million have already been invested in the program to strengthen the education system in the north.
The program is being jointly financed by the Education Ministry and various funds.
48 percent of the funds already invested in the program have been allotted to the Jewish sector. The rest will go towards the Arab sector.

At today’s exchange rate, the allocation comes to $165.15M USD. Of that, $79.27M will go to Jewish schools. Not even one cent of $79.27 million dollars can be allotted to rebuild a yeshiva? Are chutz la’aretz communities really the only people to whom Torah observant Jews of war-torn villages in the North of Israel can turn?
In fact, the Education Ministry, even in allotting money equally to the inhabitants of its most devastated region, gave a caveat:

“We have reached an understanding with the ultra-Orthodox institutions, according to which they will teach our core curriculum for the first time and we will finance the purchase of computers and science and technology equipment for them,” an Education Ministry spokesperson said.

So even to get the money, they have to “teach their core curriculum.” While this will surely be lauded as a move in the right direction of giving Charedi people job skills, let’s make no mistake: a school day is a finite resource. More time for limudei chol like science and algebra means axiomatically that there is less time for limudei kodesh like Talmud and Torah and this constitutes a fundamental departure from the way that the yeshivot were teaching before. So, in order to be able to rebuild the holes in their wall, many schools will have had to revamp their way of doing things.
This, in many Western environments, would be called infringement upon freedom of religion.
Regardless, however, barring institutionalized anti-Haredi prejudice, it behooves one to wonder precisely what took the Israeli Education Ministry so long to “come to its senses”:

“The ministry came to its senses and realized that ultra-Orthodox students in the north are also in need of aid,” said the chairman of the Movement for Quality Education, Attorney Ruth Dayan-Madar. “The decision to exclude ultra-Orthodox schools and kindergartens from the rehabilitation plan was illegal and in violation of the right to equal education.

Israel needs to end the open and hidden discrimination against Torah institutions now. Whose children do not deserve strong, safe schools?
Besides Sderot’s I mean.

12 thoughts on “Discriminatory Anti-Haredi Legislation Revoked

  1. This, in many Western environments, would be called infringement upon freedom of religion.
    By the same token, you could argue that if someone’s religion says they shouldn’t go to school at all, then forcing them to go to school is infringement upon freedom of religion. But that argument has been rejected in at least the US.

  2. Actually, in the US religious schools would have problems recieving fund from the government also. And the only funding they do recieve are for secular textbooks. I do not know for sure, but it would not suprise me if the more right wing yeshivot in the US recieve no government money whatsoever.

  3. If these Charedi schools are not teaching basic “core” skills for a child’s ability to be a productive member of society, why should the Israeli government support such schools? It doesn’t benefit the society as a whole to support such madness.

  4. So in other words, it is OK for the government of Israel to say that only X hours of Torah study can be performed by students under age 18. That’s your contention.

  5. “This, in many Western environments, would be called infringement upon freedom of religion.”
    In most Western nations such schools would never exist as accredited institutions because they don’t already teach the “core curriculum” required by the state.
    And parochial schools which aren’t even accredited schools couldn’t possibly receive any government funds. If you wish to receive taxpayer money then you must play by govt. rules, no? And again, in the U.S. it would be illegal to send our children to yeshivot that aren’t accredited by the state.

  6. No, Y-Love, they can teach whatever subjects they want, BUT they also have to teach, x, y, and z.
    Why is this unfair? If they aren’t willing to teach, say, basic math, science, Hebrew, etc. as PART of their curriculum, why should Israel flip the bill? Let NCSY and Aish HaTorah fund their schools!

  7. For a student to spend all day studying religious matters, especially in a fundamentalist, literalist context where things like basic science are being contradicted, is basically the same as not going to school at all. Given the precedent mentioned above, is that an argument for actually banning such schools? Well, that probably would violate freedom of religion… but certainly any government has the right to deny public funds to such an institution, and should given the harmful effects of this type of education on society in general (look at Pakistan’s madrassahs, for example). Anti-Haredi discrimination? Looking at Israeli gvmt. policy, if not Israeli society in general, I see way too many special exceptions for Haredi people, certainly not the opposite. I agree with most of Y-Love’s posts here, but not this time. Could someone please tell me why I should feel sorry for right-wing close-minded religious fundamentalists?

  8. Lots of good points here. I don’t know what many yeshiva’s are teaching their students (other than religious curriculum) of course, but I so no problem with basic science, math, history skills being taught – hey, our Sages, such as the Rambam, were both Torah and secular geniuses and I think that strength, or at least compatibility in those areas is a must for anyone aware of the world around them. Anyway, that’s not the point it seems, but rather one that is part of something bigger, that a part of Israeli culture is not just resistant but antagonistic towards religiosity, which is related to the creation of the State and how that went down. It can also be related to Jewish history in general. Also, by “Arab sector,” since you are speaking about Northern Israel, are you referring to Arab villages, or are you talking about communities in Lebanon itself? Depending on the answer, it would drive me crazy to find out that 52% went to Arabs in Israel (which they will be using for religious schools, no doubt) when only 48% went to Israel as a whole. That would be ridiculous!
    Anyway, I have a blog posting about the relationship between Jewish culture and Israel on my blog, jew-is-beautiful. Peace, Yaniv…

  9. Please keep in mind we are not talking about aid for the schools themselves administratively in the original legislation — we are talking about rehabilitative funds.
    I find it disgusting that the charedi communities are just supposed to find it acceptable that no one pays to fix the holes in their walls.

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