With its decision earlier Sunday to halt stipends for yeshiva students, the High Court “has joined the chorus of haters of haredi Jewry. We will not allow the court to turn us into the national whipping boy,” said MK Aryeh Deri, chairman of Shas.
In a decision Sunday, the High Court Judge Elyakim Rubinstein ruled that supplying yeshiva students with stipends negated plans by the state to encourage students to find jobs. The stipends, the court said, instead preserved the status quo, and as such the government was working at cross-purposes. In addition, the court ruled, giving stipends to yeshiva students was discriminatory, because other students did not receive them.
In a decision from several years ago, the High Court required that the state provide stipends not only to yeshiva students, but to full time university students who were married, had children, and had no other source of income, as well. The stipends amount to about NIS 1,000 per month, but according to Rubinstein, the fact that the money was available for college students did not make stipend distribution non-discriminatory. According to Rubinstein, only a few hundred college students were eligible for the funds, while some 10,000 yeshiva students were receiving them.
Students will continue to receive the money until the end of the year. Legislation passed last year had ended the stipend program, which was set to expire in December anyway. The court decision Sunday will prevent the Knesset from renewing the program.
MK Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Jewry) slammed the decision. “This is a declaration of war on the rights of Torah students in Israel. The court has turned itself into the 'sheriff' who executes the state's policy of hate and discrimination against hareidi Jews.” MK Meir Porush (UTJ) said that the court “continues a long string of discriminatory decisions against the haredi community and its way of life. It is shameful.”
During a cabinet meeting Sunday morning, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that the government intended to put hareidi Jews to work. “We will propose laws to integrate them into the workforce, as we have been doing. We have already taken many steps in this direction, and there will be many more steps in the future,” he said.