Jan 23, 2011

The Bet Shemesh Middle Class Are The Ones Affected

The big news in Bet Shemesh over the past week has been the recent decision by the Ministry of Education to no longer subsidize the ganim in the city.

It is really simply a technical issue, rather than a new decision, as, at least if I understood the situation correctly, the decision to cancel the subsidies, which is a decision based on socio-economic factors, is due to the upgrading of the status of Bet Shemesh out of the status of a development town. The decision was made a bunch of years ago (5 I think), and was to take effect back then. It was appealed by then mayor Dani Vaknin and was re-evaluated. The delay for re-evaluation and the appeal took its time (government committees work slowly I guess) and the decision was to continue as planned with the upgrade of Bet Shemesh, and the cancellation of the subsidies. After some more minor delays, the conclusion to go ahead as planned was just announced last week.

While much of the city will now be paying full price for sending little kids to gan, the older neighborhoods of the city are going to retain their status as "neighborhoods in rehabilitation" and continue to receive a full exemption from paying for gan.

The ramification of this decision is that while currently, in RBS and some of the other newer neighborhoods, parents pay, on average, 160 NIS per month to send a 3 or 4 year old to gan, that will go up to 800 NIS. In most parts of Old Bet Shemesh, gan will continue to be free.

Mayor of Bet Shemesh Moshe Abutbol has declared that this decision is intolerable. he has declared to fight Minister of Education Gidon Saar over his latest "decree" against the haredi public (i.e. the haredi neighborhoods are the most affected by the decision), and he has shut down all gan registration for the coming year, throughout the city, until the issue is resolved completely. While partial solutions have already been proposed, such as staggering the increase in the fee, Abutbol says he is holding out for a full solution.

On a technical point, Abutbol declared war on Saar for his decree - it was not Saar's decision, just a process initiated a few years ago (before Saar was MoE) that came to its conclusion.

I don't know if it was a "decree" targeted at the mostly haredi residents affected by the new status, but it is unfair that this plays out in this way. On the one hand, they accuse the haredi residents of being poor, not working, and having a low socio-economic status, yet they then decide that the city, specifically the more haredi neighborhoods deserve an upgraded status. This, while the secular neighborhoods retain their poor status. Which is it? Are the haredim rich or poor? Do they work or do they not?

The one consolation for the haredi residents is that people can still qualify for discounts based on personal income. Just like with the arnona - anyone who is in kollel, and anyone who is out of a job and not earning income, will still qualify for income-based discounts, so most people who are affected by the "decree" claiming they were the target of anti-haredi decisions, will not be affected.

In my opinion, the "decree" is really against the middle class, not against the haredim. The haredim, whoever they are, for the purpose of this discussion let's say haredim are people who live in kollel and get discounts on their arnona, will continue to get the discounts on gan, and possibly even pay less than previously. Until now everyone paid 20% of the price, 160 NIS, while now they might qualify for 90% or even 100% discounts. They will have to go through some more bureaucracy, and file more paperwork applying for the discount, but they will get it.

The middle class of the city, the people who work hard to pay their bills with one, two or even three incomes, and don't qualify for any discounts are suddenly going to have to pay 640 NIS more, 800 NIS, per kid in gan.

Somebody famous (a singer but I dont remember who, but I read the interview with him a bunch of years ago) said, when asked about how he feels paying so much money in taxes being in the highest tax bracket, that he is honored to be earning so much money that he has to pay so much. That is wonderful, but when you are the middle class and suddenly have to pay 500% more for the same service with no noticeable benefit. I am not suddenly richer, so why should my status change?

This should not be a haredi issue, but should be an issue for the general residents. Unfortunately, it seems Abutbol only gets worked up when the haredi residents are affected negatively, rather than general residents. Perhaps there is a silver lining in it, as most public officials tend to ignore the average citizen and only fight for the "minority". Meaning, if the issue was discussed as bad for the people, influential MKs would probably just ignore requests for their intervention and say there is nothing they could do. Now that is has been made into an anti-haredi issue, at least the Haredi MKs will probably join the fight.


  1. There are private ganim cheaper than that with fewer kids.
    Why would anyone pay 800 shekel for an iriya gan with 30 kids and even if they know who the ganenet is, the sayaat and machlefot will be a surprise.
    And for the really exclusive ganim it is not that much more.
    If this goes through, the registration will go down, and more private ganim will open.

  2. That makes sense. I guess this is why the heads of ganim are getting involved in fighting this, rather than leaving it to the parents.
    I read articles from three heads of ganim, and they make it seem so altruistic, they are involved so as to protect the parents and help them, and parents wont be able to pay and the city will be left with the bill, or the gan will end up subsidizing those parents who cant pay.

    It really might not be so altruistic, but they are looking a potentially a serious drop in registration, thus a serious drop in funding.


  3. but many private ganim get subsidies also. in fact there are no charedim who send children to a gan ironi!! for example the magen avot ganim are subsidized, and their price reflects this.

  4. eitz hadaas and bais yaakov are examples of non-private gans that are not gan ironi. parents now pay 160 per month, and it will go up to 800.

    On the other hand, my neighbor charges something like 480 per month to send to her gan

  5. As someone who's been paying full price for Iriya gan for 7 years, i can't say I really feel that sorry for the middle class of BS. Also, private ganim that are cheaper than 800 shekel? Maybe till one, but very few working parents pay for gan withot tzarahon, which means everyone is paying between 1800-2000 shekel for gan for kids under gan chova anyway.

    In short, the middle class in Jerusalem, Modiin and the merkcaz are paying way more for gan. You got a free ride for a while, but i couldn't last forever.

  6. yes, it is until 1. not including tzaharon.

    in many families, one of the working parents is only working half day, so no tzaharon is needed. or sometimes a parent works american hours or has other arrangements where no tzaharon is needed.

    but correct, the discussion is only regarding the gan, not the tzaharon part.

  7. It costs money to raise kids. If you don't want to look after them yourself, you have to pay someone else to do so. The middle class has a choice. The government doesn't have to pay for someone to look after your kids. All the blah, blah about the need to socialize in a formal framework at age three is just a justification of getting someone else to deal with the kids for a few hours (too many for the kids interest, but useful if you want to work.)

  8. I'm with Abbi on this one. I understand the discomfort of having to shift to similar fees as most other iriyot in the merkaz, but face it -- you guys ARE the merkaz, and furthermore can absolutely no longer be considered a development town.

  9. you are right. but when you are paying a price for gan, and then suddenly, with no change in the service provided or anything around you, the price is suddenly raised 500% it is frustrating and upsetting.

    And your logic doesnt apply to the neighborhoods (some of which are actually wealthy neighborhoods and considered upper middle class or better) still will be given a 100% subsidized rate, it is even more frustrating.

  10. The iriyah should impose an across-the-board policy for all neighborhoods in BS (including RBS and RShilo, etc). You are right that no one neighborhood in that well-established merkaz city is deserving of subsidies over any other.

  11. what the government should have done is cancel it for the whole city. then anybody who who qualifies can apply for an income-based discount.

    but the fact is that we live in a fairly socialist country. I dont see anyone complaining about the almost free health care saying whoever wants it should pay.
    If we live in a semi-socialist society, why should I be happy when suddenly I have to pay 500% more for the same service?

    and despite the fact that this decision is a few years old and is only now being implemented, most people, if any, knew nothing about it and took it into account when budgeting their expenses. It is not like we knew all along that we were benefitting from a temporary subsidy that would soon be canceled. It has been the price in Bet Shemesh for the past 50 years (or for however long the subsidy exists)...

  12. The iriyah should impose an across-the-board policy for all neighborhoods in BS (including RBS and RShilo, etc)...

    from what Rafi said it's the older bet shemesh neighborhoods keeping the subsidy - not RBS which was built 12 years ago (or Ramat Shilo - are you joking???).

    but yes I had no idea it was subsidized. this will mean less registration for municipal ganim, and private ganim pricing will increase slightly as well - after all most offer better service

  13. heftsiba neighborhood is another neighborhood losing the subsidy. they are probably about as poor there as in any other neighborhood of the city. pick the poorest section, and heftsiba matches it. yet they are losing the subsidy.

  14. I don't get your comparison to the health care system which is uniform for all citizens of Israel. You have been lucky to live in a city that until now has qualified for subsidies because of its "development town" status. Now the government is withdrawing that status, as it well should, since you guys are so far away from "development town" criteria that it's a national joke. I AM sorry for you that you have to experience this transition; someone always has to be the "dor ha'ma'avar." That is the reality of a growing country with new policies: cities grow up, and now you are considered a mature city just like many other cities in your area of the country.

    Question: would you have resisted moving to RBS if you knew that at some point your super-cheap ganim would fall in line with the rest of the merkaz?

  15. Anonymous of 2:27:

    All of your neighborhoods, from oldest to newest, should be subject to the same policy.
    Regardless of how recently they were added to the mix. Yes, everyone, I understand that it's the older neighborhoods that will still receive the subsidies. I agree with you that that's unfair!

  16. a. I didnt know there was a difference. only other place I lived was Jerusalem, and then my kids were too small and went to private gan

    b. doubtful it would have made a difference.

    truth is I was not really saying in the post that this is a disaster that must be fought. I was just sayign that the way it is being fought, as being anti-haredi, is not true nor are the haredim necessarily the ones being hurt by the change. it is the middle class being hurt.

    Sure, I would like to keep my cheap price for gan. who wouldnt? that wasnt really the point of the post though. The point was that it is not anti-haredi, as it is the middle class that will furt the most from this.

    I also think kitzvat yeladim is a waste of money and should be canceled. But as long as they give it out, I will take it, and if they choose one day to cancel it, it will mean learnign to make do with that much less money per month. it will be a transition, but not a disaster.

    some famous Israeli celeb once said, I dont remember who it was though I think it was Aviv Gefen but not sure, when he was asked how he feels about finally having reached the income to be paying in the highest tax bracket and giving so much of his income in taxes, he responded that he is honored to be able to be earning so much that he is in such a high bracket.

  17. Healthcare in this country is far from "almost free". There's a reason we pay more than 50% income tax. Your taxes pay for your healthcare, actually more efficiently than the US system where it's every man, woman and child for themselves and doctors gouge enormous amounts for tests and scans. (there's an article in the latest New Yorker that elaborates on this). I think middle class Jews in the US are suffering a lot more with sky high health insurance and school costs.

    Also, are they raising fees next month or next year? I assumed from your post this fee increase would go into effect in september. And I agree, this should have applied to the whole city and people should apply for reductions individually, like they do in every other city.

  18. as far as I can tell it will be raised in the coming school year, september.

    our taxes pay for everything, so that is a cop out answer. schooling is hardly free because I pay taxes, as the ganim are hardly free because I pay taxes. It turns out, from what you pointed out, that I am already paying for gan out of my taxes and out of my pocket for the same service. so , therefore the gan is already not free nor subsidized. Now I am expecting that with the subsidy cut, they will lower my taxes.. I mean, why should I pay twice for the same service?

  19. That is a good point - about taxes. The private ganim provide at least as much service without as much support from taxes. But I don't understand the entire system - some private ganim (Barkai on Katlav for example) do get government-provided facilities, and the ganim associated with charedi schools get a public subsidy also.

  20. Taxes significantly subsidize healthcare and schools but they don't pay for everything. That's why your kupa has fees every month and offers the option to upgrade your insurance individually. That's why there are "sal tarbut" fees for the schools. And that's why there are gan fees. Your local gannenet and the sayaot still make next to nothing for the work they do, but it still costs more money to run this system then what taxes can pay. Your taxes pay for a lot of things to run in the state- healthcare and schools are just two of things. I'm sure if they were the only things, we'd have luxury schools and healthcare.

  21. This Old Bet Shemesh business has got to go. A taxi driver with a home in Givat Savion showed me his arnona bill - over twice the size of my apartment but half the arnona bill.

    I forget who, but one of the prominent local politicians says he only cares about Old Bet Shemesh - that attitude plus the charedi-only interests of other parties kills a lot of this "developing" city's potential.

  22. If the reason for the cancellation of the subsidy is b/c of Beit Shemesh being upgraded to a real city then surely we should also receive some upside to this...a hospital or more than 1 police station on the outskirts of town??


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