Knesset Committee Approves Funding for Haredi Education Amid Controversy
The Knesset Finance Committee recently approved substantial funding for various ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) educational schemes. The allocation of 420 million shekels ($110 million) to Haredi educational programs has ignited criticism from opposition lawmakers. Critics argue that the funds are being channeled to serve the coalition lawmakers’ interests at the expense of other communities. The educational initiatives include schools without core curriculum subjects such as English, math, and science.
Additional beneficiaries of the funding are programs accommodating Haredi draft dodgers, yeshiva students from abroad, and dropouts from Haredi schools. Out of the total funds, 155 million shekels ($40 million) will be drawn from the Education Ministry budget for constructing new classrooms.
Accusations of Bias and Misuse of Funds
Opposition members have accused the government of bias and misuse of public funds. They argue that the coalition budget already dedicates considerable resources to private, unsupervised educational institutions that do not teach core subjects like English and math. Additional funds are now being directed towards ultra-Orthodox education, religious building construction, and the promotion of Haredi Jewish culture and identity.
Labor MK Gilad Kariv described the move as an “attack on the liberal community in Israel.” He, along with other critics, believes that the allocation of funds is not legal as they are almost entirely dedicated to the Haredi sector.
Previous Transfers and Controversial Budget Cuts
Earlier this month, the committee had authorized a budget transfer of 736 million shekels ($193 million) from various government ministries to Haredi education. These funds originated from widespread cuts to government agencies and public services, including resources assisting Holocaust survivors, childcare subsidies, disabled care, and auxiliary resources of the Education Ministry.
Funding Delay for Arab-majority Cities and Towns
The committee also approved a transfer of 200 million shekels ($52 million) to Arab-majority cities and towns. However, this transfer will be delayed until an oversight mechanism is implemented. Arab lawmakers have interpreted this delay as a form of discrimination. The funds are designated for education, welfare, and construction in Arab-majority areas.
The delay of funds to Arab municipal authorities was initiated by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who claimed that the money was being used to fund organized crime. However, he eventually agreed to the transfer under pressure, including from the Shin Bet security service and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the condition that a monitoring system be established.
Criticism and Future Implications
This move has sparked a significant debate within the Israeli political landscape, with opposition members arguing against the legality and ethical implications of the fund allocation. The controversy surrounding the allocation of funds to the Haredi sector at the expense of other communities and the delay in funding Arab-majority areas highlights the complexities of financial decisions within the nation’s political structure.
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