The Ministerial Committee on Legislative Affairs on Monday is expected to discuss a bill which will see yeshiva students get hundreds of millions of dollars from the State. The proposal, which is aimed at bypassing a High Court ruling, was initiated by Knesset Member Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism).
The new bill proposes “establishing the right of yeshiva students whose Torah is their profession to receive a grant.” It was signed by MKs from the United Torah Judaism, Shas and National Union factions, who explained that their goal was to reach a unique settlement which would grant funds to yeshiva students with at least three children.
The High Court of Justice ruled in 2000 that granting yeshiva students assurance of income harms equality, as it does not apply to people who do not study in non-religious institutions. Ten years later, the Supreme Court ruled that the budgetary clause violates the duty to equally distribute the State’s support, and therefore cannot be included in the budget laws as of 2011.
MK Gafni decided to submit the bill in a bid to bypass the court decision. Following the Supreme Court ruling, the Knesset’s Finance Committee examined the subsidization of tuition in higher education institutions and the aid funds and scholarships available to students.
The figures reveal that the total budget allotted by the State in the 2010 budget to support students stands at NIS 450 million (about $125 million), while the budgetary clause referring to assurance of income for yeshiva students totals NIS 121 million (about $33 million).
The bill’s initiators wrote that “the State encourages Torah studies and should therefore allow a modest living grant for yeshiva students who have chosen to follow this path.”
Knesset Member Nachman Shai (Kadima) said he planned to submit a similar bill in which he would add the word “students” to any mention of charedim. “Any other law would be discriminative and offensive,” he stated.