After an exhaustive investigation, the left-wing Haaretz paper and the Be Free Israel Organization were shocked to discover that the 2016 budget allocated 8.7 billion shekels ($2.3 billion) or 2.3 percent of the 424.8 billion shekel state budget to religious purposes. The cost is spread over many ministries and is thirteen times higher than the amount allocated directly to the Religious Affairs Ministry.
The study was made possible for the first time after the government’s publication of all the special allocations of the 2016 budget. These were never publicized until now.
The investigation found that Justice Ministry grants a million shekels to researchers of Jewish law and that millions of shekels are provided to organizations that provide housing assistance in Tel Aviv for ba’alei teshuvah.
Bayit Yehudi was found to be investing significant government funding to introduce a smattering of Judaism into the secular school system. This led Mickey Gitzin, executive director of Be Free Israel, to rail, “It’s particularly chilling that in economically weak locations, supplementary educational activity is financed by the state through religious organizations.”
7.1 percent of the Education Ministry’s 50.8 billion shekel budget is used for religious purposes. One billion shekels of this goes to support yeshivos and religious institutions, with the largest single sum going to Mir (22 million shekels). Shas’ Maayan Hatorah school network was granted 519 million shekels.
In addition, 170 million shekels of the budget is devoted to religious programs in schools, 142 million shekels to culture, 100 million shekels for avreichim’s stipends, and 16 million shekels for religious youth groups. However, the Education Ministry pointed out that all this comprises a mere 0.3% of its budget.
The Culture Ministry allocates 0.9 percent of its 1.33 billion shekel budget to religious services, and the Ministry for Negev and Galilee Development spends 10 million shekels, or 2.8 percent of its budget, developing religious tourist sites including kivrei tzaddikim.
In addition to the above sums, the study estimated that the government loses 500 million shekels annually by not taxing most organizations that provide religious services.
David Steger – Matzav.com Israel