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Neturei Karta (literally, the "guardians at the gate") is nobody's fool. The extremist anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox movement may hate the Jewish state; it may scrupulously boycott Israel and its institutions; or at least that's what it says it does. In practice, Neturei Karta is not above milking the state for all it's worth: it just does so covertly.

How? Via the Ministry of Education, that's how. Its insistence on lavishing taxpayer money on ultra-Orthodox learning institutions without asking silly questions has made life very easy for Neturei Karta.

At least NIS 700,000 of the 2004 Education budget went to Neturei Karta nursery schools, which teach the tender youngsters to detest Israel.

Naturally, Neturei Karta didn't get the money from the hated State directly. No, it got the money via the "Association of Beit Yaakov Jerusalem Nursery schools and Daycare Centers". That is a private association run by Yitzhak Goldknopf. In the year 2004 it ran no less than 162 nursery schools and 8 daycare centers, all ultra-Orthodox of course, at an annual budget of NIS 67 million (!).

All these institutions, which had all of 7,600 children, were budgeted using public money. Taxpayer money, from the Education Ministry, the city of Jerusalem, and the Welfare Ministry.

Despite the enormous amount of money lavished on this organization, there is almost no supervision over Beit Yaakov. It and 20 other similar "conduit" associations manage hundreds and hundreds of nursery schools for the ultra-Orthodox and Arab sectors in Israel; and they receive Education Ministry infusions without undergoing tests or inspections of any kind. It does not even check whether the nursery school actually exists.

The ministry doesn't look into the management of the nursery schools or why anybody needs that conduit association, which skims off a percent to run the nursery schools.

Anybody know who that kid is?

In the case of Goldknopf, mediation amounted to management costs of NIS 4.3 million, of which NIS 730,000 was wages for the association's top five people. Goldknopf himself cost the association NIS 17,000 a month.

In 2005, the Education Ministry controller finally had a look, and concluded that the management fees were fair. Rather less fair, he found, was the finding that between the 162 nursery schools the association was reportedly running, nursery schools of Neturei Karta were hiding.

Administration is neglected at every possible level. To receive permission to open a school, theoretically one must meet several criteria: but not to open a nursery school. You have to have a yard, 15 children, one authorized teacher and that's that. No study program, no pedagogical values or inspections, at most some safety measures. You have that and you can get a Ministry of Education budget of NIS 3,000 a year per child. That's about half the amount compared with a school-child, but for a tenth of the expense.

Official secular nurseries and kindergartens (trom hova, hova) do have certain standards they must meet. They are doubly supervised, by the Ministry of Education and the municipality. There is not even the appearance of supervision over the Arab and ultra-Orthodox equivalent institutes.

Maybe a motorcycle

Israel has about 3,000 Arab and ultra-Orthodox kindergartens, which are supervised by four inspectors. That's about 800 per inspector, says the ministry.

Do we really need to point out that nobody could supervise that many schools, even if he drove the Batmobile.

The circumstances have made opening a kindergarten in Israel into a business, pure and simple. It is a flourishing one, too. Arab and ultra-Orthodox kindergartens are opening at a pace five time faster than regular ones are opening.

The more rapid expansion of the Arab and ultra-Orthodox populations are not the whole explanation. All around the country gigantic kindergartens with hundreds of registered children that nobody ever heard of before are popping up from nowhere.

They could be children who never went to gan before. Or they could be kids who still stay at home with their mothers and send only their identity number (teudat zehut) to gan, enabling some conduit association to rake in money without doing anything.

A random check by the ministry found 400 children listed for kindergarten, who never went. It then issued a directive: from 2007, no more kindergartens may be set up by conduit associations.