Heavy Fines for Illegal School Openings During Coronavirus Lockdown to Be Canceled

5,000-shekel fines, mainly to Haredi institutions, weren’t approved by Knesset committee

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Ultra-Orthodox boys on the way to school in Beitar Illit despite the coronavirus lockdown, October 19, 2020.
Ultra-Orthodox boys on the way to school in Beitar Illit despite the coronavirus lockdown, October 19, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Shira Kadari-Ovadia
Shira Kadari-Ovadia

Dozens of fines given to schools that opened in violation of coronavirus regulations last month are expected to be cancelled.

Most of the 65 fines of 5,000 shekels (nearly $1,500) were handed out to ultra-Orthodox institutions, and are expected to be withdrawn because the Knesset Education Committee did not approve the regulations permitting authorities to order the fines. The mistake was discovered by legal advisers at the Knesset on Thursday and was first reported on Channel 12 News.

According to the law dealing with delegating authority during the pandemic, Knesset committees have two weeks for discussing new regulations so that they can change or cancel them. The full Knesset then has a further week for doing so as well. According to the law, if a certain regulation does not come up at one of the committees, it is automatically validated. The approval of associated fines, however, requires actual approval by a committee or by the full parliament.

Since the fines for opening schools in violation of regulations were not actively approved, there is no legal way of collecting them. The time for approval has passed so that fines can no longer be imposed even though an error was detected.

The cabinet has presented several regulations regarding educational institutions, and these can still be actively approved, so that fines can be collected in case of violations. Regulations regarding the opening of grades one to four have were not approved on time by a committee, but the plenary can still approve them by the end of this week.

The chairman of the Education Committee has appealed to Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin in this matter, but no response has been given yet. The committee was expected to approve other regulations regarding open-air studies by the end of Monday.

Dozens of ultra-Orthodox institutions in Bnei Brak, Elad, Betar Ilit and Modi’in Ilit opened over the last two months, in violation of lockdown regulations. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month that he would promote imposing heavy fines on institutions opening without approval.

“This is not directed against any person but against a thing, against the virus, against the disease” he said in a video he posted on Twitter. “I expect cooperation by everyone, without exceptions.”

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