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The social-welfare cabinet is to discuss on Monday a proposal that would increase the monthly salaries of municipal rabbis by between 54% and 143%. The proposal was put together by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz of Likud and Religious Services Minister Yaakov Margi of Shas. It would affect a few dozen city and neighborhood rabbis (out of a total of around 120), who took up their positions in or since January 2006.

The proposed salary hike is progressive, giving more money to those earning less and vice versa. Rabbis in communities with a population of 10,000 or less, who currently earn gross salaries of NIS 7,200 a month, would see their wages rise 143% in March, to NIS 17,500 a month before taxes.

Rabbis in cities with 250,000 residents or more, who now receive NIS 18,900 a month before taxes, would get "only" a 54% increase, to NIS 29,130 a month.

Since these rabbies are paid by local governments via their religious councils, the salary hikes will not pose a burden to state coffers. Rabbi Uri Regev, the founding director of Hiddush for Religious Freedom of Equality, called the proposal "scandalous."

"It is a scandalous expansion of the salaries of buddies of the ultra-Orthodox parties, at the expense of the taxpayers," Regev said.