The High Court of Justice is scheduled to give its final ruling on Tuesday on a petition submitted two years ago to cancel government allowances for ultra-Orthodox men studying in yeshivot. The practice of paying such stipends has been in place for the past 30 years.
The petition was initiated by several groups, including Hiddush, an organization promoting religious freedom and equality; the National Student Union; Ometz, an organization that advocates for good governance and civil liberties in Israel; the Center for Jewish Pluralism; Ne'emanei Torah Va'avodah, a religious-Zionist youth movement; and the Israel Freedom Movement.
The session will take place in the court chambers in Jerusalem with a senior panel of judges, including Supreme Court President Justice Asher Grunis, Deputy President Justice Miriam Naor and Justice Edna Arbel.
The petitioners requested that the court terminate government-provided stipends for more than 10,000 haredi men around the country, saying the funds are illegal based on a High Court ruling in June 2010. The stipends are provided for yeshiva students and their wives who do not work and have at least three children. The monthly payments amount to around NIS 1,000 ($254) and the total cost for the country is said to be around NIS 135 million ($34 million) a year.
Attorney Gilad Barnea, who represents the petitioners, said on Monday, "We expect the court to uphold its ruling and instruct the state to discontinue the payments. The state has in fact ignored the court's ruling and continues to provide the funds."
Uri Reshtik, deputy chairman of the National Student Union, said, "We hope that on Tuesday the long struggle we have pursued will be concluded, not just for the sake of [university and college] students but for the entire Israeli society as well. The state must encourage the young and productive sectors in society."
Hiddush chairman, Rabbi Attorney Uri Regev, said "It is sad to see a country in such fear of drafting yeshiva students and so determined to continue funding them. As opposed to claims by the state, no reform has taken place yet in the matter of the stipends and there is no process of social change. The opposite is true - the continued funding of haredi students encourages them to remain in their yeshivas instead of getting jobs."
Meanwhile, in response to a petition by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel and attorney Yehuda Ressler over the drafting of ultra-Orthodox men into the IDF, a statement by attorneys for the state said, "An immediate and one-time draft of all yeshiva students whose service was postponed deviates significantly from the IDF's draft capacity and would not enable proper military planning."
Attached to the statement was a table presenting the IDF's plan for drafting thousands of haredi men over the next few years. According to the table, 6,670 haredi men will be drafted into the IDF in 2013. In 2015, the number will reach 8,000.
The High Court is scheduled to discuss the petition on Thursday.