The Belz Hasidic sect is the second largest Hasidic sect in Israel, with 7,000 boys in its network of schools. Thus, the decision by the admor of Belz, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, obtained under the “change government” – to allow core curriculum studies into its schools under the supervision of the Education Ministry – was an earth-shattering move in the world of ultra-Orthodox education.
The current budget for a Haredi student in the Belz network is 5,000 shekels ($1,470) per year, compared to the 15,000 shekels budgeted for a student in the ultra-Orthodox Maayan Hahinuch and Hahinuch Ha’atzmai networks, and the 18,000 shekels per student in the public education system. The Education Ministry promised Belz that if they started seriously teaching core subjects, the budget would be doubled. But this important process has now been halted by Benjamin Netanyahu who, for the sake of political support, is willing to mortgage the future of the Haredim and of the entire country. In order to ensure the Haredim’s support for him, Netanyahu promised the admor that he would make sure his school system’s budget was doubled even without introducing core subjects.
Indeed, as part of the coalition agreements, the budgets of the private Haredi school systems will increase sharply. Netanyahu apparently also committed to pay the wage increases that were part of the New Horizon reforms to all Haredi teachers in all of the ultra-Orthodox networks – i.e., to raise Haredi teachers’ wages by thousands of shekels a month, even though these teachers are not members of the Teachers’ Union and do not report work hours, hold academic degrees, do any supplemental professional training or, of course, teach core subjects. The purpose of the New Horizon agreement was to improve the quality of teachers and extend the hours they spend in school. None of this exists in Haredi education, but they will receive the wage increases just the same.
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Consequently, the only chance the state had of inducing the Haredim to agree to teach core subjects, via the promise of additional financing, has been lost. So has the only chance to extract the Haredim from the job factories of their educational networks and integrate them into the modern employment market. The Haredim are barricading themselves anew in their ghettoes, dooming themselves to a life of poverty and Israel to a future as a faltering country. And Netanyahu is doing all of this deliberately, at taxpayer expense.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.