Photo Credit: Edi israel / Flash 90
Consistent morals, even in the face of rocket fire: then-President Shimon Peres visits a Sderot summer day camp. (archive)

Secular Israeli parents are enrolling their children in Orthodox Jewish summer camps this year, despite the dress code requirements.

The reason? It’s just a better deal.

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Prices for summer camps in Israel are soaring, with fees for the typical municipal program costing as much NIS 3,000 for even the youngest campers in the kindergarten “bunks.”

In the religiously observant summer camps, children are required to dress modestly; girls wear skirts and sleeves, and boys wear yarmulkas. A resident of Bat Yam interviewed by the Hebrew-language Mynet website said it was a matter of being practical. “Instead of paying 3,000 shekels for a daughter at an urban camp I pay 450 shekels,” he said. “What does it matter if the child needs to go with a skirt? If the secular summer camps want us, they have to cut prices.”

In accordance with the Ministry of Development of the Periphery and the Galilee, a certain percentage of the students are entitled to subsidized municipal camp scholarships. But many families are not entitled to these benefits and face skyrocketing costs in having to find ways to keep their children busy during the hot summer months.

For working parents, that dilemma is a nightmare. “When I opened the envelope with the registration form for the municipal summer camp for my children I was horrified,” Natalie S. told JewishPress.com. A resident of the northern Negev development town of Arad, she and her husband both work full time.

“There was no way that I and my husband could afford more than 2,000 shekels per child for each of our two toddlers for a two-week program this summer, and to keep the kids home was simply not an option,” she said. “It’s not fair. How do people do this, and what are we supposed to do with them the rest of the summer? How am I supposed to keep my job while we figure this out?”

In Bat Yam, a number of secular families decided the solution lay in a network of private hareidi-religious summer camps where the fee was barely a fifth of the price. One of the parents interviewed by Mynet declined to reveal the name of the camp, fearing their children would be rejected, since they did not share their secular beliefs with the camp.

“I am sure the director knows the truth and there are many families like ours,” the parent said.

One of the camps operated in the city this summer is Bnei Zion, associated with the Sephardic religious Shas party and designed for school-age girls. The tuition is NIS 450 for a three-week session, including Fridays, according to the camp’s director, Yosef Rachamim. The program includes field trips, inflatables, a trip to the Jaffa port, a picnic, a barbecue, swimming pool time and other attractions.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.