The High Court of Justice Tuesday gave the state 45 days to explain why it shouldn't halt financial support for tens of thousands of yeshiva students following the expiration of the Tal Law, which exempted those students from military service.
The injunction was given in a petition submitted by Hiddush - Freedom of Religion in Israel, Israel Hofshit, The Israeli Forum for Citizens' Equal Rights and Obligations, and former MK Roni Barizon. The state will also have to explain why it should not annul the September modification of criteria for financial support of Torah institutions, and why the attorney general's recommendation to modify the criteria should not be accepted.
In August, the petitioners demanded that the state halt stipends to 54,000 yeshiva students who can no longer postpone their military service since the Tal Law ran out. The petition argues that the criteria for support of yeshiva students covers only those exempted from military service, and those whose service was postponed due to the Tal Law and who could receive financial support from the Education Ministry, but that since the Tal Law expired, there is no longer any legal basis for the financial support of these students.
In September the state declared it had decided to modify the criteria for support of yeshiva students so the support would continue for all students as long as they weren't called to military duty. The state added that the yeshivas would not receive financial aid for any students who were called but did not report to duty.
Deputy Attorney General Mike Balas wrote the petitioners that the aim of the support was to "help yeshiva students with families," and that the modification is not a change from the status quo.
Following the government's move, the petitioners submitted a modified petition, arguing that the clear object of the new criteria is to maintain the existing situation "despite the fact that the legal reality has changed, following the expiration of the Tal Law."
The petitioners added that the Education Minister and the attorney general "coarsely and callously designed the modification to the criteria with one sole objective - to continue financial support to the same bodies, at the same rates without any change - and to prevent the halting of payments, a situation that could cause a political and public outcry."
The petitioners argued that it is unclear how one can check who was called to military service and who wasn't - and for good reason, since the moment the law expired, every Israeli citizen aged 18 who isn't exempted from military service is required by law to fulfill his military duty.
The petitioners added that the new criteria cause discrimination "since they do not offer equal, fair and genuine opportunities to the public to compete for financial support." Furthermore, the respondents said "the Education Minister and attorney general are especially in breach of their duty as the public's trustees, and blatantly trampled the principle of equality."
After Tuesday's debate, the High Court of Justice issued the injunction demanded by the petitioners, ruling that the petition would be heard by an extended panel of justices as determined by Supreme Court President Asher Grunis. On the same date, other petitions dealing with the expiration of the Tal Law and the drafting of yeshiva students will also be heard by the court.