The Beached Whale of Israel

"State education is in danger," blared ads run in the last month, signed by the mayors of 15 citires in Israel. They argue that education will collapse if the Nahari Law passes.

"According to Minister Nahari's proposal, the government and the local authorities will be forced to transfer hundreds of millions of shekels a year from the national education system to schools that do not recognize the basic values of the State of Israel, that do not teach democracy and that do not conduct the basic general lessons necessary to economics and society."

The 15 mayors clearly stated what has long been an unsaid secret: the ultra-Orthodox schools do not teach good citizenship, they do not train their pupils to fit into the labor market, and therefore, financing these schools is a consummate waste of taxpayer money.

Naturally money for these ultra-Orthodox schools is at the expense of money for regular schools that do teach good citizenship, democracy and general knowledge.

With its own hands the State of Israel is hacking at national education in favor of the ultra-Orthodox version.

The mayors aren't the only ones who think so. Education Minister Yuli Tamir herself said much the same in conversation with TheMarker. "The State of Israel places equality, rather than the state, at the center. The result is that we definitely are diminishing national education," she said.

But her concern in that respect is not evident in her deeds. It is not the mayors but her ministry that transfers the hundreds of millions of shekels to the ultra-Orthodox schools, without asking questions.

The secret figures

The Education Ministry figures (which are not in the public domain, by the way) show that each year, it allocates NIS 1.3 billion of its budget to finance all sorts of ultra-Orthodox schools.

Doesn't sound like too much, you say? Well, look how that number will develop.

In 2006, there were 205,000 ultra-Orthodox pupils out of 1.4 million pupils in Israel. One of seven was ultra-Orthodox.

In 2011 there will be 254,000 ultra-Orthodox pupils, an increase of 24%, while the general population of pupils will grow only 2.4% - one out of six. By 2016 that figure may reach one in five.

The budget for ultra-Orthodox education should grow correspondingly.

This is money not spent on advancing any educational or national purpose. The ultra-Orthodox education system simply trains the next generation of poor. It doesn't teach democracy - or how to cope in today's world.

The Education ministry is allocating ever-growing budgets to assuring that the population of the impoverished will continue to grow.

Israel is using its resources to hack down the branch on which it sets. Like a whale navigating itself at full force onto the beach, to its doom, the state insists on destroying its own future.

The States requires private schools to meet certain criteria, which is why the ultra-Orthodox men of Brooklyn generally work: they are taught the tools to fit into modern American society in school. Israel is a unique species of whale: other countries don't have educational strategies to commit suicide.