An expose in Kikar Hashabbat today reveals that while the entire Haredi public, guided by the clear rulings of many of their leaders, is fighting against the attempts by Israel’s Education Ministry to interject core curriculum subjects, like Math and English, into the Haredi yeshivas, “it turns out that underground the dangerous retreat from the purely holy education has begun, causing a great anxiety and fear among the great men of the generation.”
According to the Haredi website, the first two institutions to surrender have been both Chassidic yeshivas, one, Chidushay HaRim, is run by Gur in Tel Aviv, the other by Nadvorna in B’nei B’rak. Both are in the process of letting the exterior subjects into their study plans.
Both yeshivas have capitulated before the ministry’s pressures, says the website, in order to receive the full, 100 percent funding, like every other Israeli high school.
“In this dangerous precedence, the yeshivas have turned into religious high schools,” warns Kikar Hashabbat.
The legal status of both institutions has been altered by the Education Ministry, from “culturally unique,” the term used for most Haredi yeshivas, to ” recognized but not officially,” the term used for the majority of high schools in Israel (only the first 9 grades in the Israeli educational system are officially sanctioned and fully budgeted.)
The folks at the Gur educational system have attempted to conceal the change, according to Kikar Hashabbat, by renaming their institution “Youth education School” (Beit hasefer chinuch la’no’ar), but its online contact information takes users back to the Chidushei HaRim yeshiva.
Recently, the Education Ministry—which is headed by Rabbi Shai Piron, who is himself a Rosh Yeshiva—has been aggressively promoting the teaching of core curriculum subjects, in order to provide underprivileged, Haredi and Arab students with the needed foundations to become successful later on in life.
The program promotes proficiency in Languages, Literature, Math, Science, Technology, and Physical Aptness. All of these are, obviously, perceived by the bulk of the Haredi leadership as an attack on Torah values.
Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, the most prominent Haredi posek in Israel today, is, understandably, the most vehement voice against the core curriculum plan. Pointing to the questionable achievements of secular Israeli education, Rabbi Shteinman urges his followers—the bulk of Haredi society, at least until the Kikar Hashabbat story came out—to stand as a fortified wall before the new decree and “not alter even by a hair’s breadth the educational path we received and passed on until today.”
Still, if the Haredi establishment fears an all out assault by the government, specifically Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, they’re not wrong. Shahar Ilan, VP of the Chidush, a left wing NGO dealing with issues of freedom and religion, checked out Lapid’s promises to cut severely in the funding for Haredi yeshivas, and, as Globes reported Thursday, discovered that the minister remained true to his words.
The overall budget for Haredi yeshivas and kolelim used to be in the billion shekel range (just under $300 million) annually. This budget cuts it down in the coming school year to 650 million shekel (just under $200 million), and in the following year down to 400 million shekel (just over $100 million).
That’s quite a haircut. Coupled with the severe cuts in child support to large families, it appears that the majority of the Haredi yeshivas will probably buckle under the economic pressure, sooner or later, and with a variety of inventive ways of concealing their shame.
Like every other political issue, the truth is somewhere between the Haredi leadership who refuses to consider even the knowledge of English and Math as information their youths could probably use – and the Yesh Atid brutal attack on the Haredi economy, which includes actually taking bread and milk away from babies.
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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