Israeli Religious Services Ministry's Budget Jumped 60% During the Year

The budgets for erecting religious buildings, the provision of religious services and the construction of cemeteries more than doubled.

Chief Rabbinate-run conversion court in Jerusalem, May 23, 2004.
A file photo shows a Chief Rabbinate-run conversion court in Jerusalem. Eyal Warshavsky

The Religious Services Ministry’s budget increased by more than 60% since the beginning of 2016, and now totals 1.03 billion shekels ($268 million), versus the 641 million shekels allocated as of the beginning of the year. Since 2014, the ministry’s budget has more than doubled.

The figures come from a review by the Hiddush, an NGO dedicated to religious freedom in Israel.

As opposed to other ministries in Israel, the Religious Services Ministry’s budget will not be cut as part of the across-the-board 1.2 billion shekel budget cut approved this week.

The ministry’s budget for erecting religious buildings doubled this year, to 85.8 million shekels, and the religious services budget tripled, to 131 million shekels. Another 92 million shekels were added to build cemeteries –  an increase of 838%.

The religious authorities’ budgets increased by 15% to 55 million shekels.

Meanwhile, the Chief Rabbinate’s budget increased by 64%, from 22 million shekels to 37 million shekels. The rabbinic courts’ budget increased by 40%, to 219 million shekels.

This year, the budget for conversions was transferred from the Religious Services Ministry to the Prime Minister’s Bureau, while the budget for the rabbinic courts was transferred from the Justice Ministry to the Religious Services Ministry.

In previous years, the Religious Services Ministry’s budget had also been expanded during the year. Last year, the budget was increased from 511 million shekels to 823 million over the course of the year, and in 2014 it increased from 384 million to 823 million shekels as well. Next year the ministry is being budgeted 659 million shekels.

Hiddush CEO Rabbi Uri Regev attributed the budgetary increases to the ultra-Orthodox parties pushing to take advantage of public funds, and secular political leaders giving in, contrary to the will of Israel’s majority, and at the expense of crucial social services.