Education Ministry Gave Millions to NGO That Funds Illegal Outpost

The Midreshet Ma’amakim organization, which is funded by the Education Ministry, is crowdfunding Homesh Yeshiva, an illegal outpost that has been repeatedly rebuilt and dismantled

The evacuated Homesh settlement, May 9, 2008.
Nir Kafri

The Education Ministry gave millions of shekels in recent years to an association funding an illegal outpost being built on the ruins of Homesh, which was evacuated in 2005 as part of Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip and an area in northern Samaria in the West Bank.

An illegal outpost called Homesh Yeshiva has been repeatedly built on the site over the years, with the temporary structures eventually cleared by the Civil Administration.

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After the most recent evacuation of the community’s religious study hall, the association, Midreshet Ma’amakim, launched a crowdfunding project for a return to the site. Nearly 50,000 shekels ($14,000) have been raised so far. The association claims on the crowdfunding page that Homesh Yeshiva has operated for 12 years.

Midreshet Ma’amakim’s turnover in 2018 was about 13 million shekels. Its official goal is to build Jewish study centers and “to enable religious female students to study Judaism in addition to their academic studies, to absorb new immigrant students and to prepare them for their studies in Israel.” The association’s main activity is operating the Midreshet Ma’amakim school.

The Education Ministry has funded its operations to the tune of millions of shekels annually. A review of the association’s internal documents shows that the Education Ministry allocated some 8.5 million shekels in 2017, 7 million shekels in 2016 and 6.2 million shekels a year each in 2014 and in 2015.

Its crowdfunding page states: “40 yeshiva students stay on the land in difficult conditions while trying to right the injustice of the disengagement and connecting to the land from which we disengaged 14 years ago. Conditions on the ground in Homesh are hard: neither electricity nor water is supplied, and all the buildings were entirely destroyed in the destruction of 2005.” The page also notes that “yeshiva students, who are carrying a public statement on their shoulders, are conquering these difficulties daily. The permanent and continual presence in Homesh and the expansion of the yeshiva led to building a Torah study center that will serve as protection against the sun and rain.”

Lior Amihai, the executive director of Yesh Din, told Haaretz that the human rights organization represents the owners of the land in the area of the illegal outpost, which he says was built on private Palestinian land. “The place remains a hostage of a violent and illegal yeshiva, which prevents Palestinian farmers and landowners from reaching the place,” said Amihai. “Now it turns out that the Education Ministry enable the presence of the yeshiva by funding an association that fundraises for it. Yesh Din ... will continue to work to get rid of the illegal invaders.”

The Education Ministry commented: “The ministry funds educational institutions and the expenses of educational institutions in line with clear guidelines and according to the law. Regarding the case described in your inquiry, the ministry strictly funds the school’s activities and not the association’s activities.