Mass rallies against stipends for Orthodox

By Anshel Pfeffer, November 4, 2010

Thousands of students took to the streets of Jerusalem this week to protest against a budget law awarding yeshivah students special stipends which university students will not enjoy.

The students called upon the government to end the situation whereby strictly-Orthodox students who do not work are financed by the state.

Last week the government passed a two-year budget which included
111 million shekels for stipends for strictly-Orthodox yeshivah students.

The stipend budget item was rewritten following a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that stipends only for yeshivah students was illegal. In the new budget, any student without a job and with three children would also be eligible for the stipend. Student organisations responded angrily claiming that there were no students with three children and without jobs, and that the budget had been rewritten specifically for the strictly-Orthodox students.

Despite the protests and the opposition of the Labour ministers, the budget was passed by the government and the Knesset on the insistence of the strictly-Orthodox party, which is a crucial member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition.

Mr Netanyahu defended the vote saying in an address to the Knesset that "also the Charedim are part of our nation." Shas leader Eli Yishai said that "the yeshiva students are a crucial part of the Jewish people".

Last updated: 4:49pm, November 4 2010