Israeli students incensed by ultra-Orthodox benefit

November 2, 2010

israeli students

(Photo: Students protest near Hebrew University in Jerusalem on October 27, 2010 against the bill to give more state funds to Torah students/Ronen Zvulun)

Israeli university students have demanded that the government drop plans to pay stipends to ultra-Orthodox Jews who study the Torah but do not work.

Protests over the so-called Yeshiva bill in the past week highlight growing Israeli resentment of the 600,000 ultra-Orthodox “haredim”, who live almost entirely off state welfare benefits.

Several thousand students held a protest march in Jerusalem on Monday warning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu they were not “suckers” who would meekly accept what they regard as rank discrimination.

Netanyahu’s coalition government relies for its survival on the support of ultra-religious parties, who have traditionally exacted a price from Israeli leaders for their backing, usually in the form of benefits for their own community.

Students holding strikes and protests on Tuesday were angered by reports that the government also has plans to tax their scholarships, in a little-noticed amendment to the omnibus enabling bill that accompanies the annual budget.

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