The Bottom Line / A Prayer to the Goddess of Plenty

Limor Livnat is a good woman. The fact is, she takes care of her mother. During Livnat's term as education minister, the ministry quadrupled financial support for a non-profit organization run by Shulamit Livnat! And the organization, for its part, decided to increase mom's salary by 50 percent! And what about the husband? The state comptroller opened an investigation last week into the connection between the minister's husband Elichai Henig, and the local authorities. A Haaretz investigation reveals that Henig's company is one of the major beneficiaries of the "heritage policy" Limor Livnat has initiated.

But those who think Livnat is good only to her family are mistaken. She is also good to the ultra-Orthodox. The story began in 1992, when Shas joined the coalition in exchange for a clause in the budget law allocating "equal conditions" between state education and the ultra-Orthodox education networks: the Shas-run Ma'ayan religious network and the Agudat Yisrael independent education network.

This is a mark of shame on the budget law. It is the opposite of equality, because a basic rule in a democratic society is that if you want to be 100-percent funded by the state, you have to agree to 100-percent supervision of the money's use, or at least carry out the minimum - the core curriculum for elementary schools in Israel, which sets the minimum number of hours and the required subjects.

But the ultra-Orthodox have developed a different equality model altogether: We'll do what we want; we won't agree to supervision or the Dovrat reforms or the core curriculum - we won't teach math, or English, or science, or civics, and we will also teach our children not to work or serve in the army, but to live on state welfare payments. And you fully fund this wonderful education.

But all this is nothing but an introduction to the ultra-Orthodox elementary schools and kindergartens that are segregated and private, that have removed themselves from mainstream ultra-Orthodoxy - but nonetheless want us to give them full funding.

About a month ago, the ultra-Orthodox MKs railed against the High Court of Justice for ruling that the state is not obligated to fund school lunches for the segregationist educational institutions. These are the most extremist schools, which separated themselves from their own population. They are not prepared to be part of the independent educational system or the Ma'ayan religious system. They would not dream of implementing the core curriculum, and so they built for themselves mehadrin - religiously strict - private schools outside all frameworks recognized by the state. But, despite all this, they now want the state to fund their school lunches - because suckers don't die, they just get replaced.

An additional affair, publicized here for the first time, deals with a private member's bill submitted by MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) and MK Meshulam Nahari (Shas), calling for full funding from the state for private kindergartens. These are extremist ultra-Orthodox kindergartens, segregated from the rest of the ultra-Orthodox society, just like the schools that want state-funded lunches. And just like the first case, these parents have also decided not to participate in either the independent educational system or the Ma'ayan religious system.

The Gafni-Nahari bill was defeated in the ministerial committee for legislation in June, but the good Livnat plans to appeal the committee's decision to the government on Sunday, in an effort to advance the Gafni-Nahari bill. How can this be?

It's not just that they don't recognize the state or its institutions, not just that they're making a joke out of the Dovrat reforms, but that this same Livnat - only a year ago, when the 2005 state budget was being discussed - proposed a deep cut in the budget for ultra-Orthodox kindergartens. The cut was thwarted at the last minute due to a coalition agreement. So why is Livnat now switching direction and trying to increase the budget?