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Oct 30, 2013

Religious services need to be funded too

Why is it that whenever some religious services get funded, it is treated as if they are stealing from the rest of the country?

Unfortunately there is no separation of shul and state (or mosque/church and state, either) in Israel, to even the slightest degree. That means that just like the State of Israel funds and provides the services and needs of every community, it does so for religious services as well. It funds the theater, the arts, the sciences, sports, academic and everything else, and it also funds religious services - and it is no less legitimate just because it is for religion.

According to the census from two years ago, about 33% of Israelis are religious, and an additional 25% consider themselves "traditional". That means 58% of the citizens of Israel regularly make use of religious services, to some degree or another. And among the remaining 42% of citizens who define themselves as secular or not-religious, they too make use of religious services, albeit at a less frequent rate and sometimes even just because they have no other reasonable choice. Basically, religious services are being provided to a significant majority of the citizens of Israel.

Yet, whenever money is sent the way of religious services there is an outcry asking why they get money yet x, y or z is told there is not enough money for that...Somebody came up with a new idea and is trying to pass a law to make it part of the system. Give new fathers a few days off of work - a few days of paternity leave. I think it is a great idea, but the State, if it wants to do this, has to find funding for it - it was not part of the original budget, as it is only being proposed now, after the budget has already been passed. So, the funding is not currently available, and if it becomes law, the State will have to find a source of funding for it. As great an idea as it is, as important as it might be, it does not give us enough reason to delegitimize the funding of religious services. This service might be necessary, but those services are as well, and those already have a source of funding.

Minister Yair Lapid recently said that the new paternity leave idea that has been proposed is great, but nobody has shown from where the money will come to fund it, and he therefore opposed the bill. Globes is complaining that he opposed that bill due to lack of funding, and then two days later Lapid found money for religious services. Lapid sent 52 million NIS to fund religious services:  14 million for the "Jewish Identity Administration" (whatever that is), and an additional 37.8 million NIS to the Ministry of Religious Affairs for various needs. The crime! How dare he provide for the already-budgeted needs of a majority of the country!

With the budgets for religious services already stripped to the minimum, perhaps those proposing great ideas should look elsewhere for the money, and let the religious citizens of Israel get some of their religious needs funded. Maybe they should propose cutting the sports budget or the arts. There are a lot of important needs provided by the State, and until Israel will move for a separation of shul and state, it cannot be expected to cut religious services every time something else needs money.

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  1. A very well written post!

  2. The Jewish Identity Administration was supposed to be one of the Bayit Yehudi achievements, but another one of the ideas that Yesh Atid managed to influence on instead. It's one of the endless dati-leumi attemps at funding outreach to non-religious people and was ideally supposed to only be operated by orthodox. Instead, Yesh Atid ministers would not let the original plan pass, instead watered down the wording enough so that theoretically, reform and conservative can participate as well.


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