12 Students Injured During Tel Aviv Protest Against Yeshiva Student Stipends

Police declare demonstration illegal after students block traffic; Knesset passes bill calling for resumption in allowances to full-time yeshiva students.

More than 12 students were injured Wednesday during a student demonstration in Tel Aviv against a controversial bill calling for resumption in allowances to full-time yeshiva students, the cost of which has been included in the state budget for the next two years.

Hundreds of students gathered in front of the Tel Aviv museum for an event that included music performances of Israeli artists who supported their cause, and hosted by television power couple Orly Vilnai and Guy Meroz.

Police said that the peaceful rally became violent after two smoke grenades were thrown toward the stage during one of the performances, following which the students left the museum square and started marching towards the center of the city.

After several students sat down in the middle of the street and obstructed traffic, the police declared the demonstration illegal and the violent confrontations began.

Four police needed medical care after the clashes, and eight students were detained for questioning.

Last month, the Knesset approved the state budget for 2011-2012 in which Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz included a sum of NIS 111 million intended for yeshiva students' stipends.

The bill sparked mass student protests across the country, amid which a clause of the Economic Arrangements Bill was revealed that scholarships awarded to university and college students will be subject to government taxation.

On Tuesday, the National Union of Israeli Students submitted an alternative proposal for the so-called yeshiva bill, which would instate in law income stipends for yeshiva students with families and who don't work.

The students, led by Itzik Shmueli, have argued that the stipends are discriminatory - the High Court of Justice backed them on this one - and want college and university students to receive them as well.

The union's alternative calls for giving stipends to both yeshiva students and college students from poor socioeconomic backgrounds, and for letting them earn up to 150% the minimum wage (about NIS 5,700) until they lose their stipends. The goal would be to encourage employment, the students say; the current yeshiva stipends discourage their recipients from working.