The Knesset Plenum passed in its first reading late Monday night a bill which annuls the requirement to teach the ”Core Curriculum” in Haredi schools. The government-sponsored bill was merged with a proposal submitted by MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) and a group of Knesset members.

Thirty-seven MKs voted in favor of the amendment to the curriculum law, and 33 opposed the legislation. The law, passed by the Yesh Atid party in 2013, would slash state funding for some Haredi institutions from its current 55 percent of the budgets that Israeli schools that comply fully with the core curriculum receive, to 35%. Instead of requiring the Haredi schools to teach 10 to 11 hours per week of secular studies, as the Yesh Atid law stipulated, the proposed law would now give the Education Minister the authority to fund these institutions.

Bill canceling the requirement to teach core subjects approved in first reading

During the late-night session, Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) said Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion had ”pledged to all Jews that they be educated in accordance with their lifestyle; he understood that you can’t force any Jew not to live traditionally.”

”For 65 years, the Knesset operated in this way, until the Yesh Atid bill came along,” Porush said.

MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) called on those who introduced the curriculum law to ”make sure that your children study the core subjects – a page of Gemara, the Bible, Mishne.”

MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) stated that ”For the past 65 years, the haredi public has been the victim of a shady deal. You did not want people to open their eyes.” The Haredi public, he said, ”must stand up and determine its fate, because those who are leading you want you to remain [in the same position] you were 65 years ago.”

MK Mickey Levy (Yesh Atid) said the ultra-Orthodox parties were ”condemning 40,000 students to darkness” and ”poverty,” while fellow Yesh Atid lawmaker Elazar Stern said, ”There is no victory here for any party. This is a tragedy of Haredi youth, who are sentenced once again, on the 17th of Tammuz (Jewish fast day commemorating the breach of the walls of Jerusalem before the destruction of the Second Temple) to remain poor and disabled.”

MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Camp) argued that more and more Haredim are seeking an education. ”They realize that this is the way to move forward in life and leave the circle of poverty. I call on MK Gafni to lead an initiative that will give schools that teach core subjects budgetary credit.”