Shortly after he became Finance Minister, Avigdor Liberman (Israel Beiteinu) introduced a cut in subsidies for daycare centers for Haredi women who are married to Kolel students, and while the Supreme Court is hearing an appeal against the decree this week, it continues to be one of the burning issues in the Haredi discourse.
About four months ago, the Finance Minister caused a huge stir when he announced an immediate change in the criteria for subsidized day care centers, which basically meant denying funding to Kolel students. The main change that was introduced, and took effect on November 1, is the application of a new test of earning capacity, instead of the old test which determined that it is sufficient for the mother to work part-time in order for the Kolel-attending father to be entitled to a subsidy. Under the new test, both spouses must show that they work at least 24 hours a week. According to estimates, the new criterion denies subsidy to 21,000 children of Kolel students.
Social engineering? You bet. Overt anti-Haredi move? Well, didn’t you see the name Avigdor Liberman in the first paragraph?
But setting aside Minister Liberman’s proto-anti-Semitic intent, Direct Polls set out to discover just how many Haredi Kolel students would abandon their desks as a result of the decree. The answer? Very few. Only 2% of the Haredi respondents said that the cut in subsidy would drive husbands to stop their studies at the Kollel and go to work. 40% feared that the decision would actually cause the wives to stop working (23%) or reduce the scope of their job (17%).
Now, how do the Haredim evaluate the Finance Minister’s motives? An almost absolute majority of the Haredi sector (88%) think that Liberman’s motives stem from a hatred of the Haredim, only one percent think the considerations are purely economic.
The survey was conducted by Shlomo Filber and Tzuriel Sharon through Direct Polls LTD during the month of August 2021, using online and telephone communication. The survey comprised 2,247 adult respondents (age 18+) from among the entire Haredi population in Israel. The statistical sampling error is + 2.5% + with a probability of 95%.