´Knesset failing to change status quo on haredim´ (JERUSALEM POST) By JEREMY SHARON 04/03/12)
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A religious freedom lobbying group levelled heavy criticism at the
Knesset on Monday in its report on the parliament’s winter session,
for failing to deal with pressing concerns of religion and state.
The review, produced by the pluralistic Hiddush organization, said
that despite widespread discussion of the issues in the Knesset,
particularly regarding discrimination against women and haredi (ultra-
Orthodox) enlistment in the IDF, few practical achievements were made
in addressing these concerns.
Hiddush also singled out MK Moshe Gafni of the ultra- Orthodox United
Torah Judaism party for obstructing the implementation of the
Trajtenberg Committee’s recommendations pertaining to education and
employment in the haredi sector.
Gafni, who is chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, refused a
request by The Jerusalem Post for comment on the report.
MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), who was praised by Hiddush for efforts
to create greater separation between religion and state, said in
response to the report that haredi parties are waging war on secular
“They have succeeded in blocking almost all legitimate initiatives
relating to education, marriage, divorce, rabbinical courts,
conversion and other issues besides,” he told the Post. Although
Horowitz conceded that most recent governments have also not dealt
adequately with the issues, he called the current coalition’s record
on religion and state matters “far worse” than previous governments.
The Prime Minister’s Office denied the claim that none of the
Trajtenberg Committee’s recommendations regarding the ultra-Orthodox
sector have been implemented. It stated in response that the
government has in fact begun to implement some of the recommendations
of the committee – especially with regard to integration of haredim
in the labor market.
Responding to an inquiry by the Post, the Prime Minister’s Office
pointed to several achievements, including the transfer of
responsibility for a government project providing public funding to
support academic studies for 500 new haredi men every year – from the
Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor to the Planning and Budget
Committee of the National Council for Higher Education. The office
also cited the continuation of funding for this haredi student
project; the roll-out of a hi-tech educational project for ultra-
Orthodox youth who have left the yeshiva fold; and the projected
opening by the end of the year of an educational center for haredim
in Jerusalem with capacity for 4,000 people.
Hiddush’s Director, Reform Rabbi Uri Regev, said however that the
only way to deal with the issue in light of “haredi obstructionism”
is for Likud and Kadima to form a “civilian government” without any
ultra-Orthodox parties – in order to carry out “a revolution for
religious freedoms and achieve equality in sharing the burden of
“The public expects that the recommendations of the Trajtenberg
committee be implemented,” said Regev. “Particularly the teaching of
core curriculum subjects [in ultra- Orthodox schools], haredi
employment, the passage of an obligatory national service bill
instead of the Tal Law and legislation to curb discrimination against
Hiddush’s report noted that not one bill tackling the issue of
discrimination against women passed even a preliminary hearing.
“The permanent partnership between the ultra-Orthodox parties and the
coalition has again succeeded in neutralizing the Knesset’s ability
to respond to developments in matters of religion and state,” the
The report pointed to the Trajtenberg recommendations to limit
government funding for full-time yeshiva students to five years, and
to obligate ultra- Orthodox elementary schools to teach core-
curriculum subjects – saying they have been ignored.
The report also cited Gafni’s comments to the Calcalist newspaper in
October: “I don’t recognize the Trajtenberg Report and it doesn’t
exist as far as I’m concerned. I will not bring up at all the chapter
relating to the ultra-Orthodox.
It is not relevant and is populist.”
He later told the Knesset Channel that he would not raise the
recommendations in the finance committee that he chairs. (© 1995-
2011, The Jerusalem Post 04/03/12)
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