Education Min. Stops Funding to Yitzhar Yeshiva

The Ministry of Education has decided to halt funding to the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva and shut down the local high school yeshiva.

Elad Benari ,

Od Yosef Chai
Od Yosef Chai
Israel news photo

The Ministry of Education's Director General,, in an unprecedented decision, has decided to halt the government funding of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva in the Shomron community of Yitzhar and completely shut down the Dorshei Yechudcha high school-age yeshiva ketana.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Education’s outgoing Director General, Dr. Shimon Shoshani, sent a letter to the yeshiva’s administrative team notifying them of the decision. This was the last day of his term of office.

“I have decided not to renew the recognition of the Dorshei Yechudcha school and not to grant it a license,” Shoshani wrote in the letter. “I have also decided to stop the funding given to the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva.”

Shoshani reached this decision already in late September, after a meeting with the yeshiva’s administration.  However, he did not let them know until Tuesday, as he was leaving the Ministry. His successor is not privy to the information that led to the decision.

Interviewed in Hebrew on Galei YIsrael radio station, he claimed that the decision to cut the funding was based on a recommendation by the Israel Security Agency (ISA), which had accused students at the yeshiva of violent, illegal activities against area Arabs and Israeli security forces.

"However", said Shomron Regional Council Head Gershon Mesika in the same interview, "there is no proof of this activity, no one has been indicted and the yeshiva has not been allowed to see the accusations - nor has the regional council or anyone else. The ISA has not been able to discover who did the vandalism to mosques and other Arab property, so they have decided to blame the yeshiva."

"This is an unprecedented step which is reminiscent of Soviet Russia,” Mesika said. “It is inconceivable that in the State of Israel officials decide to shut down official institutions based on confidential information. We’ve seen this type of behavior in the kinds of regimes that we thought had disappeared from the world.”

“We have not seen closures of any Islamic religious institutions that preach support for terrorism or of universities whose lecturers preach against our very existence,” he added.

Shoshani wrote in the letter to the yeshiva, “After our meeting, additional classified material was given to me to review, which drew a comprehensive picture of what was happening at the yeshiva. The classified information presented to me is not consistent with your arguments.”

“I made my decision primarily on that confidential information,” Shoshani admitted in the letter. “Although the Ministry of Education inspectors were positively impressed by what is happening at the yeshiva, I do not think that these audits should be given great weight since the inspectors were not exposed to the confidential material to which I had been exposed.”

The Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva is headed by Rabbi Yitzchak Shapira, who authored the book Torat Hamelech which contains his interpretations of Jewish law regarding the use of force when dealing with enemies. Although the book makes no direct mention of Arabs, some have said that the book incites to kill Arabs.

Rabbi Shapira has previously been arrested by police for questioning over the book. Other rabbis who gave their stamp of approval to the book, a routine measure when a book is logically coherent halakhically, have also been arrested and later released.

In his letter, Shoshani used the Torat Hamelech book as an excuse to justify his decision to shut down the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva.

“Torat Hamelech and other such publications cannot be consistent with educational principles and with the influence that an educator in general and specifically a rabbi has on his students,” Shoshani wrote.

In response to the decision, Od Yosef Chai’s management pointed an accusing finger at Education Minister Gideon Saar, saying he was ultimately responsible for making any decision on this issue. Shoshani said that Saar gave him free rein and relied on his judgment.

"The education minister is hiding behind the outgoing director general, while the decision is entirely up to him,” they said. “The decision is based on the book Torat Hamelech, which was written by the rabbis of the yeshiva, and on confidential material which the Ministry of Education does not agree to disclose and which was given to it by [Deputy State Prosecutor Shai] Nitzan and the ISA."

“Throughout the last year the Ministry of Education has been acting like an underground resistance movement,” yeshiva management said. “Using confidential material that we cannot defend ourselves against and prove it false is not proper behavior.”

Since Shoshani is now a private citizen and the only person privy to the secret information except for the ISA, the Education MInistry could not enlighten Arutz Sheva or the yeshiva on the matter. 

The yeshiva administration added, “Despite this abuse, the studying at the yeshiva continues as usual, and with G-d’s help will continue for many years.”

The National Union party also criticized the decision, pointing a finger at Deputy State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, who is known for his hatred of Judea and Samaria residents.

“In no state does a prosecutor have so much power to bend the law at will,” the party said in a statement. “This decision is in stark contrast to a decision by the Supreme Court which stated that the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and equality are the foundations of our constitution. If there was a violation of the law by the yeshiva, the prosecution should either file charges or stop this ugly harassment. The Ministry of Education must immediately cancel its illegal decision.”