Leaders of the Public Religious school system took part in an emergency meeting with Knesset Members of the National Union-National Religious Party faction on Monday afternoon, to discuss Education Minister Yuli Tamir's latest anti-religious decree.

Tamir, a founder of the far-left Peace Now organization, has ordered a drastic cut to the religious schools, in a "manner that will totally neutralize their special character," participants at the meeting charged.

Tamir to Divert "Jewish Studies" Funds Away from Yeshivot

Director of the Yeshivot Bnei Akiva organization Elchanan Glatt announced that Tamir has established a new committee to find new ways of utilizing the funds of the budgetary clause entitled "strengthening Jewish Studies."  This clause represents nearly 50% of the total budget of the yeshiva high schools and ulpanot (girls' high schools), and essentially pays for the half-day of Jewish studies that render the yeshivot and ulpanot unique.  Without this clause, the number of hours that could be devoted to Talmud, Mishna, Bible and Jewish philosophy would be the same as in a normal public high school.

"Tamir plans to liquidate the Public Religious education system," Glatt said.

150,000 Religious Students to Study Public-School Judaism?

Tamir's purpose in establishing a committee to allocate the Jewish Studies funds differently, Glatt said, "is to enable these funds to be given not only to yeshivot, but to public secular schools as well.  Her committee is working hard to come to conclusions within a month, and to carry them out even during the current school year.  The little money that enables the yeshivot and ulpanot to operate will be distributed among all the schools in the country. This will totally erase the special character of the religious schools.  150,000 students across the country will simply cease to receive a Jewish education."

The Numbers

MK Uri Ariel (National Union) provided some numbers: "In 2002, the Jewish Studies budget totaled 287 million shekels, or some 250 shekels per student per month.  In 2008, that budget has already been cut by more than half, and with the increase of students, is now approximately only 70 shekels per student per month - less than a third of what is was six years ago.  And now, Yuli Tamir wishes to take even this paltry amount from us."

The Battle

As part of the battle against the new decrees, MKs and officials of the Religious Education system plan to meet with the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister. Tamir will be invited to a NU-NRP faction meeting to explain herself.  MKs from other parties who have graduated from the Religious School system will also be invited to take part in the struggle. 

MK Ariel proposed that a special Knesset session be held on the topic; if 40 MKs so request, Prime Minister Olmert will be required to attend.