It took only three months for the law to be passed, and now the mechinot - the pre-military academies, including yeshivot - will no longer have to fear annual budget cuts.
The bill was proposed by MKs Rabbi Michael Melchior (Labor) and Limor Livnat (Likud). They explained that the yearly ritual of proposed budget cuts in the mechinot, which are then followed by political intervention by interested political parties to make up the missing funds, was becoming wearisome and wasteful. The budget of the institutions will now be protected by law.
The law passed its final readings on Wednesday in a whopping 72-0 vote.
"The pre-military academies are a Zionist and principled enterprise of the first degree," MK Livnat told Arutz-7's Hebrew newsmagazine, adding that she helped develop the project when she was Minister of Education.
Pre-military academies in Israel currently number 34, nine of which are in the process of receiving recognition. Of the 25 recognized mechinot, 13 are yeshiva academies, and the others are "general" - either secular or mixed secular/religious. The first mechina - Yeshivat Bnei David - was established in the Samaria town of Eli 1987, and within two years there were four more. In 1997, the first non-religious mechina sprouted - Nachshon, currently located in Metzudat Yoav near Ashkelon.
Cooperation and Respect
Rabbi Ze'ev Sharon, head of the Maaleh Efraim Mechina Yeshiva, told IsraelNationalNews, "The cooperation, affection and respect between the religious and non-religious leaders of the mechina movement is something that should be emulated in the rest of the country. It is simply outstanding, and truly - and not just as a turn of phrase - one for all and all for one."
The yeshiva mechinot study Talmud, Jewish Law and Jewish thought, together with the courses in Zionism, leadership and Judaism given in the other pre-military academies. "The best IDF officers and commanders come from the mechinot," Livnat said.
Co-sponsor MK Melchior, Chairman of the Knesset Education Committee, said, "The passage of this bill is a great achievement for everyone for whom Israeli society is close to his heart. The mechinot place their graduates in the front line of social action in Israel - in the army, on the periphery, in settlement and in volunteer work, and I am gratified that we were able to guarantee their continued existence and growth."
The new law provides for the government to give the mechinot a set sum for each student, though the total sum to be given cannot exceed 15% more than that of the previous year. The current cost of 33 million shekels will be split between by the Defense and Education Ministries.
"The great thing about this bill is that the cost will now be a permanent part of the annual budget," Rabbi Sharon explained, "and will not have to be negotiated separately each year. This is the same as elementary and high schools - though yeshiva high schools still have a problem, since much of their funding still comes from the national budget's 'extra' clauses, not from the permanent clauses."
Sharon noted that in the past, the National Religious Party and National Union sometimes gave of their own specially-designated monies to the non-religious mechinot, even though parties normally use these funds for their own special interests.