|NIF Supports Major Protest against Yeshiva Students Law|
More than 10,000 Israelis marched through Jerusalem on Monday night to protest the proposed Yeshiva Students Law that would provide significant benefits to ultra-religious students that are not available to secular university students. The march was organized by the National Students Union, which received consultancy assistance from SHATIL, and other student organizations and groups.
In 2009, 11,137 yeshiva students received NIS 132 million in government support through the state budget. But Israel's Supreme Court recently ruled that these payments are discriminatory because university students do not get similar support. To appease the ultra-Orthodox parties in his coalition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is proposing the Yeshiva Students Law to bypass the Supreme Court ruling.
Protestors stood outside the Prime Minister’s residence shouting “Invest in higher education not in people who refuse to work.” Most ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students live on government benefits, and the new law would increase the disincentive to work by specifically rewarding unemployed married students with more than three children with additional government money. The poverty rate among the ultra-Orthodox is approximately 60 percent, and efforts to bring men into the workforce are often met with opposition from the rabbinic hierarchy.
Rabbi Uri Regev, head of Hiddush for Religious Freedom and Equality and the former president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, told the protestors as they rallied in Zion Square, “The real test is if the energy we see here tonight will start significant change in Israel society.”