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Monday, March 18, 2013

The Mir Yeshiva stands to lose a lot of money

One of the lesser known facts about the Israeli governments support for Torah learning is that until now the government has provided money to Yeshivas for foreign students who were enrolled. There are approximately 18,000 foreign students learning in the various Yeshivas and the government was providing the Yeshivas between 65 - 120 million shekel a year for them. That is all going to stop under the new government. There will be no more support for foreign students.

This will impact the Mir more then most Yeshivas as the Mir has over 2000 foreign students and was getting over 20 million shekel for them. Now the Mir is going to have to figure out how to replace that 20 million shekel from other sources.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Israel has a new government - some analysis

Here is some initial analysis of the new Israeli government.

I. Who is in the government and who is out

As I predicted right after the election, the coalition will be a secular one consisting of:
  1. Likud - Yisrael Beitenu - 31
  2. Yesh Atid (Lapid) - 19
  3. Bayit Hayehudi (Bennet) - 12
  4. Hatenua - Livni - 6
68 seats in total. 

The Charedim parties who desperately wanted to be in the government are out.

II. Main Issues that will be dealt with

The following major issues will be dealt with by the new coalition (over and above the regular security issues like Iran, Hamas, etc.)
  1. The Draft - This was one of Lapid's major issues and he got most of what he wanted. 
    1. Everyone will be drafted except for 1800 yeshiva students. 
    2. Yeshiva students will be able to push off their draft only until the age of 21. At the age of 21 they will  either be drafted or do national service
    3. Mandatory service time for boys will be cut to 2 years
  2. Education - Again Lapid is the big winner here. 
    1. Shai Piron, number 2 on Yesh Atid's list will be the Minister of Education
    2. Within 2.5 years every school will need to teach the core curriculum or face monetary sanctions
  3. Electoral Reform - Again another big issue for Lapid
    1. The threshold to get into the Knesset will be raised to 4% (5 seats) 
    2. A vote of confidence will require 65 votes and an alternative candidate for Prime Minister.
    3. The government will be limited to 18 ministers and 4 deputy ministers

III. The Ministers

The issue of what ministries each party would get almost killed the coalition before it got off the ground. Here are the important ministries and who will lead them.
  • Defense Minister - Likud, Moshe Yaalon
  • Finance Minister - Yesh Atid, Yair Lapid
  • Foreign Minister - Yisrael Beitenu, Avigdor Lieberman (on hold until after his trial)
  • Education Minister - Shai Piron, Yesh Atid
  • Industry, Trade and Labour Minister - Bayit Hayehudi - Naftali Bennet
  • Religious Services Minister - Bayit Hayehudi
  • Justice Minister - Hatenua - Tzippi Livni
  • Health Minister - Yesh Atid
  • Welfare and Social Services Minsiter - Yesh Atid
  • Interior Minister - Likud - Gidon Saar

IV. The Winners 

The big winners are Lapid, Bennet and Livni.

Lapid

He got most of what he wanted
  • A secular government
  • A small government
  • A draft deal which he can live with
  • Education reform
  • Electoral reform
  • 5 ministers

Bennet

  • Strengthened his coalition position
  • Head of the powerful Knesset finance committee
  • Took back the Religious Services Ministry from the Charedim

Livni

With only 6 seats she managed to do very well:
  • Justice Minister
  • In charge of negotiations with the Palestinians

V. The Losers

The big losers are clearly the Charedi parties. They have basically lost the main things that they have been fighting for over the years:
  • Unlimited draft exemption - gone
  • Complete educational freedom - gone
  • Government Monetary benefits for Avreichim - gone, only for people who work or try to get a job
It will be very interesting to see what happens now in the Charedi world.

The other big loser is Netanyahu. With this coalition he has burned his bridges with the Charedi parties. The perception is that he was outmaneuvered by Bennet and Lapid and he has made many enemies in the Likud. You have to believe that this is his last hurrah as Prime Minister. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The cash machine that is the Israeli government

As a followup to yesterday's post where I detailed how much money the average Charedi gets from the government today (and may lose with the new government), I would like to refer to a post of mine (The Charedi view of the government and money), from 8 years ago that is more relevant today then ever.

Here are some of the highlights with my comments from today mixed in, in [brackets]:

This made me realize that the Charedi view of the government in Israel is completely different then everyone else. They view the government as a cash machine, give us money and leave us alone. The budget is a zero sum game, whatever we can save and get for us great whatever doesn't go to us is basically lost. The Charedi population views itself as hardly using any government services (no, schools, university, roads, police, jails, etc.) [which is of course not true, they use the roads, health care, the army protects them etc.] . They also feel that they have little or no stake in the government, they don't believe in it. In addition, the Charedi population pays less in direct taxes because many people don't work, they are poor, and those who do work get a lot of money under the table and therefore when they get money from the government they don't look upon it as their tax money coming back to them. [Lately, some in the Charedi world have made the claim that the Charedim pay more in taxes then the average Chiloni and get back less, however, this is not at all backed up by any real data]  Last but definitely not least, the money the Charedi population gets from the government is in many cases the difference between making it through the month or not making it. The government money is a huge part of their income that they cannot do without [see yesterday's post which quotes an estimate from Mishpacha that it was over 3000 shekel a month a very big sum when your total income is about 7000 shekel]. Therefore, when their representatives in the Knesset bring money for Yeshivas etc. it is a big deal and is the way success is measured.

The middle and upper middle class (who vote for Shinui [this past election Yair Lapid]) sees things very differently.
1. They pay the majority of taxes and know that any money in the budget is coming from their pocket, taxes
...

It has always amazed me that the secular majority has not wiped out the money for Charedim yet, I believe that the day is coming and then the Charedi society will be in for a huge shock and adjustment. [Lo and behold that day seems to have come and as predicted the Charedi world is in shock]


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

3064 shekel - This is how much the average Charedi family will lose under the new government

This number appears as a big headline on the front page of yesterday's (Tuesday 3/11) Mishpacha newspaper. Here is how they came to these numbers:

I. Income Assumptions

Family Status

Married couple with 6 kids

Income

The husband/father learns in kollel  and receives a stipend of 1800 shekel
The wife/mother works as a teacher/ganenet - 3400 shekel a month
Other income - Night Kollel/Friday kollel - 400 shekel a month
Total Income: 5600 shekel a month

Government benefits Received

Child payments - 1592 shekel
Arnona (property tax) reduction - 90%
Guaranteed Income 
Private Elementary Schools - 55% - 75% government support Yeshiva Ketana - 850 shekel ~ 1450 shekel a month

II. What will be Cut

Child payments - 542 shekel reduction
Arnona reduction - 0% (no reduction)
Education - No government money, reduction of 1450 shekel
Kollel Stipend - no more

III. How will this be implemented?

There are 2 basic policy shifts which will happen to cause all of the above to happen.
1. Currently, government benefits are income based per number of heads in the household. Therefore, Charedim qualify because they have low incomes plus large families. However, the government is now going to introduce another criterion into the mix. To get low income government benefits you will have to prove that you have tried to go out and make a living, what they call in Hebrew מיצוי כושר השתכרות. In other words, if you don't work, or try to find work, you don't get government money.
2. No funding of schools that don't teach the core curriculum. Today these schools get between 55%-75% funding, depending on what they teach  Now it will be all or nothing, if the full core curriculum isn't taught the government will provide no funding.

Conclusion

I have to say that I believe that these are good and needed reforms. If you are poor by choice then that is your choice and no one else should be forced to support you. Regarding school funding, the fact is that just about everywhere else in the world there is a mandatory curriculum that every school (public, Catholic, Charedi, etc.) must follow. Therefore, it is perfectly legitimate for the State of Israel to impose these requirements as well. Somehow the Charedim in NY and Manchester and Antwerp, and everywhere else outside of Israel manage to live with that.

If these changes take place they will force the Charedi world in Israel to rethink Torah only, there is no way that the Charedi world as it is constituted today can survive these kind of cuts.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Charedi parties threatening revenge - Part 2

Many people have commented that the Charedi parties are only doing what everyone else does in politics. If you don't take revenge and make your enemies pay no one will take you seriously in politics and you won't succeed in getting anything for your constituents. In other words the Charedi parties are simply playing by the same rules of dirty politics as everyone else.

The answer to that is very simple. Religious Jews are supposed to be answer to a higher authority and are supposed to play by the Torah's rules and not any other rules. If you can't play by the Torah's rules in politics then don't play. Last I checked, there is no heter to violate aveiros for politics.

This is one of the reasons why the whole idea of religious parties is a terrible idea. Most Israelis see the Charedi world through the lens of the Charedi politicians and the political system which gives them a very warped view of Charedi society. IMHO we would be much better off if there were no religious parties like in the US and instead would influence the political system from within the large parties. While there is no question that the political system in the US is much more amenable to this because representatives are directly elected in districts, I still believe it could work here.


Part 1 is here

Monday, March 04, 2013

The Charedi parties are threatening revenge on the Bayit Hayehudi - Is that the Torah way?

The Charedi parties are vowing to take revenge on the Bayit Hayehudi party if they are excluded from the coalition including voting with the left to destroy settlements and giving up land to the Palestinians.

The Charedi parties claim that they are run על פי תורה, is this a Torah true position? The answer is clearly not for many reasons:

1. There is an issur of לא תקם, you aren't allowed to to take revenge. Even if the Charedi parties are claiming that Naftali Bennet and the Bayit Hayehudi leaders are not really religious and they are reform (see for example R' Moshe Sternbuch), and therefore the issur doesn't apply, that applies to the leaders only. The people who the revenge will actually be taken on, the ones who live in the settlements are without a shadow of doubt, religious people who devote their lives to Torah and Mitzvot. Should their lives be ruined for petty revenge? Is this allowed ע"פ דין?
2. The Chinuch explains the issur of לא תקם as follows. Since everything that happens to a person comes from Hashem what is the point of taking revenge? The person who harmed/slighted/whatever you is just the messenger, the harm/slight/whatever is coming from Hashem. If the Charedi politicians really had Emuna they would look at this whole series of events as a learning experience and try to understand what Hashem is trying to tell them, not planning revenge.
3. Are they really going to give back holy places in Israel just to satisfy their revenge? Does ארץ ישראל mean so little to them that they are willing to sacrifice it to a silly revenge fantasy?

The fact is that the whole draft crisis has been blown completely out of proportions by the Charedi politicians. No one is trying to destroy the Torah world, the Torah world will survive just fine if many of the boys spend a short time in the army.

IMHO, the Charedi politicians have shown a complete moral bankruptcy during the coalition negotiations and are willing to do anything to get into the government. Is this really the message that the Charedi world wants to put out that they are for sale and will do just about anything to get into the government? That they are obsessed with petty revenge?

There has been a set of 12 questions posted all over the internet (http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2013/03/03/good-questions-to-ask-ourselves/ , http://haemtza.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/the-12-questions.html and others) for Charedim to answer. I would love to see some cogent answers.

Click here for part 2