Among the items that the state will stop funding as a result of budget cuts are programs for yeshiva students from abroad who spend a year or two learning in Israel. Doing that, says United Torah Jewry MK Menachem Eliezer Mozes, is very shortsighted and will do more harm than good.
“The program costs the state just NIS 35 million,” Mozes said in a Knesset speech Wednesday. “But cutting it is going to end up costing us a lot more.”
Similar to Taglit (Birthright), Na'aleh, Masa, and other Jewish Agency programs to bring college-age students to Israel, there has been a government program to help yeshivas sponsor one and two year programs for high school graduates, providing funds for programs, trips, events, and in some cases financial aid. Meanwhile, there are far more students who come to these short term yeshiva programs than who come on any of the college trips, and they spend much more money here than the Taglit students do, Mozes said. Tagli is a ten day program, while yeshiva students sometimes stay for several years, many come back after marriage, and some make aliyah.
“For the pittance the government invests in the yeshiva program – NIS 35 million compared to the far larger sums invested in these other programs – the state was benefiting greatly from the money the yeshiva students spend, helping the state's GDP and supporting the local economy in many areas,” said Mozes. “They come here as tourists and bring in foreign currency. Their families come to visit them, staying in hotels and renting cars. Many of these families decide to make aliyah, purchasing homes and bringing their wealth with them. And the students themselves buy things like Passover matzos, or etrog and lulav sets on Sukkot, and bring them with them on holiday trips back home.”
By cutting this small budget item, Mozes said, yeshivas will have a much harder time administering and running the programs for foreign students – and chances are many will close down, eliminating the great benefits that came out of the program.
Calling it shortsightedness born of hatred of Torah, Mozes said. “It's just another in a long line of edicts against the hareidi community. They do these things without thinking, even though the damage from these edicts far outweigh the benefits. Their purpose is to ruin the hareidi way of life, and persecute the observant population. It doesn't matter to them if the state loses out, too,” he added.