Religious-Zionist education
Religious-Zionist education Israel news photo

Dozens of religious-Zionist schools and institutions threaten to close their doors for a full day, two weeks from now, in protest of a massive budget cut of over 100,000 shekels.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is the target of particularly biting criticism on the part of the educators for his decisive role in the cut. The current issue of the weekly B’Sheva newspaper features a photo of Netanyahu signing a “charter” with the religious-Zionist movement, before the elections earlier this year. Accompanying the picture is this subtext: “Binyamin Netanyahu’s promises before the elections to help sustain and nourish religious-Zionist education appear to have been written on ice: The decision to cut 100 million shekels from the budgets of the religious institutions is liable to cause irreversible damage to the network.”

The cuts affect yeshiva high schools, ulpanot (girls’ high schools), hesder yeshivot, girls’ medrashot, post-high school yeshivot, Torah core groups in development towns, seminars for Judaism and Land of Israel studies, centers for basic Jewish-Zionist education, and more.

A similar strike was called in 2006, for similar reasons; it was the first time ever that the religious-Zionist schools had closed their doors to protest budget cuts.

History of Decreasing Funding

Until 2004, the religious-Zionist schools received funding from both the Education and Religious Affairs Ministries, totaling 280 million shekels. This sum dropped sharply in 2005 to only 150 million shekels – but, following protests and the intervention of then-Finance Minister Ehud Olmert, MK Zevulun Orlev and others, 47 million shekels were added to the religious education budget.

In 2006, however, the 47 million was not allocated, leading to a one-day strike – and the restoration of the 47 million.

The next two years saw cuts totalling 17 million shekels, leaving a budget of 180 million shekels - from which the government has now cut a full third, or 60 million shekels.

“These numbers are astronomical,” Elchanan Glatt, Chairman of the Religious Zionist Education Forum, told Israel National News. “And not only that, but they want to cut another 70 million shekels from other religious-Zionist educational frameworks! Instead of adding to our budget, in accordance with our student population that grows by thousands each year, they want to cut back! This is impossible for us to accept.”

An emergency meeting has been called for this Tuesday of the heads of all the religious-Zionist educational streams. “At the same time, we are in constant contact with government officials,” Glatt said, “in order to see if this decree can be annulled.”

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