The Israeli Supreme Court handed down an important ruling this week — striking down benefits for older yeshiva students. Married yeshiva students are given support payments that supply them with a state subsidized income.
In 2000, these grants were abolished for secular high education but retained for religious students. Arnon Yekutieli, an advocate for secular rights and separation of temple and state, challenged the obvious discriminatory rule. A former deputy mayor of Jerusalem, Yekutieli died in 2001 before he could learn of the important victory brought about by his petition.
Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch ruled that “there is no place for distinction between yeshiva students in any other institutions.”
One justice, however, fought to continue the facially discriminatory rule and the entanglement of temple and state. Justice Edmond Levy dissented, insisting “Torah study is a commandment and both the Knesset and the government have asserted that it should be funded by placing on the public the burden of providing an income for Torah students.”
Undeterred, Interior MInister Eli Yishai MK pledged to guarantee that yeshiva students would continue to be supported by the state and that the Knesset would resist what he called “a hard strike against at the spiritual status quo of the nation of Israel.”
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