Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Are the Haredim Really the Ones Benefitting From Inequality?

A Guest Post by Rafi G

They make it sound like the haredim have the highest level of quality of living and economic wealth in the country, and it is all through taking advantage of government funding.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the way the supplementary "Havtachat Hachnasa" is structured in the budget is discriminatory and illegal and must be canceled (beginning with the 2011 budget). Since then people, articles, opinion pieces, editorials, are talking non-stop about how important this is. As if this measly little part of the budget is so important and everything in the country that has been going wrong has been because of that, and now everything will be ok.

I get that equality is important, but some proportion is in order.. The welfare payment was a measly welfare payment. nobody was getting rich off it and almost nobody clamors for welfare payments unless they are absolutely desperate. This is not the big savior of Israeli society nor of creating equality. It is a measly welfare payment. it might have been necessary, under the banner of equality, to cancel or restructure, but let's not make it out to more than what it actually is.

Beyond that, now that the rabidly anti-haredi are so happy that this Havtachat Hachnasa has been canceled and our society is now nearly perfect, we can move on to resolving the final remnants of inequality in society. Sure enough, the haredim are squeezing the rest of the country again with disproportionate budgets that they take advantage of and don't allow anyone else to benefit from. And we have to resolve that inequality immediately.

Now being suggested is that the Haredim benefit by learning in kollel because they do not have to pay for their higher education - they even get paid a stipend for it - while college students have to pay for their higher education!

The shame! Kollel students are not paying the tuitions of college students. What inequality! How unfair. We must either force the kollels to start charging people to learn, and then we'll see how many of those haredim would really be so inclined, or we should cancel the tuition charged in university and have the government provide all the funding.

Yes, that will finalize the equality in Israeli society - start charging tuition to kollel men, or cancel university tuition. Everybody, no matter what they are doing and no matter how different they are, should either have to pay for it, the same amount I assume, or nobody should have to pay for it.

In the meantime, the State refuses to recognize kollel and yeshiva study as higher education and recognize it in the form of granting a degree, akin to a BSc of Judaic Studies or something similar, while someon ein college who studies ancient Chinese languages, or any other topic that has little or no practical use, is just as unqualified for any practical job yet he holds a recognized degree.

So you refuse to recognize his studies at a university level, but you want to compare him to university students and start charging similar tuition?

The kollels are largely not funded by the government. Stipends are provided and some of the general funding is provided by the government, but the bulk of the kollel budget is made up by the Rosh Kolel, or someone else, traveling the world a few ties a year and raising money to run his kollel. The university is funded far more by the government than a kollel is. Also, look at the universities and see their campuses and buildings. Then look at the mostly run down batei medrash in caravans in which kollels learn and still tell me with a straight face that it is comparable to the university, and it is the haredim who benefit form the inequality.

Read the annual comptroller reports, whether national or local cities, and you will see how the inequality is almost always against the haredim. Their education system is funded using numbers far lower per student than the general educational system. The money given for religious services (there is no separation of shul and state in Israel, and until there will be this will remain an issue) is a pittance compared to the money given to the arts and cultural activities.

And it is the Haredim who are benefiting form all this inequality?

I would recommend that the haredi politicians get together some people who are good with numbers, along with some good lawyers, and file a suit in the Supreme Court to demand equality. Let the cat out of the bag. Take it to the public and show that it is almost always the haredim that suffer from the losing side of unequal funding, and if the courts and public insist on equality, it works both ways.

Let's keep it in proportion. People have been making this court decision out to be the salvation of equality in Israeli society. At the end of the day, all it is is a measly little welfare payment.

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