Religion Magazine

Will "American" Yeshivas in Israel Shut Down Due to Budget Cuts?

By Gldmeier @gldmeier
Among the budget cuts that Finance Minister Yair Lapid put into place is making extinct the budget for foreign students. Yeshivas with a significant percentage of foreign students, and the Mir Yeshiva is being used commonly in the media as the prime example, will be hit hard by this budget cut. While many yeshivas also charge tuition, in addition to the funding they receive per student from the government, there are some places, like the Mir, that do not charge tuition or just charge a nominal fee.
MK Menachem Eliezer Mozes (UTJ) spoke out against this specific budget cut fro the Knesset podium yesterday.
As I have said before, I do not know if this budget cut is good or bad, if it is justified or not. I think the issue is debatable, if a government that is strapped for cash should be funding foreign students or not. I see both sides of the argument, but I do not have an opinion as to which side is more justified.
Ladaat has the text of what Mozes said, and at least the main point is something I agree with, ..and I want to comment on just one point..
Mozes said, in not so few words, that this budget cut will save the government a paltry 35 million NIS. In the terms of a government budget that is basically peanuts. While the government spends hundreds of millions of shekels investing in bringing tourists to Israel because it spurs the economy and brings in foreign currency, for these yeshiva boys it should be a no-brainer. They invest nothing in bringing them as the boys come on their own and they survive here on their own. They rent apartments, they buy in the stores, they tour the country, their parents come to visit, they rent cars, rent hotel rooms, some get married and stay even longer, some buy apartments, etc.
So far so good. I agree with his main issue - the budget is tiny, and the small "investment" brings in a lot of tourism money. It does not make much sense to cancel this little budget item.
Mozes continues and says that canceling this budget is cutting off the branch on which we are sitting and is completely illogical. Doing so, Mozes says, will mean these boys will stop coming to Israel. There are no savings in this budget item cancellation, no ideals like "core curriculum", no need for encouragement to leave yeshiva and join the workforce, etc. The only reason to stop this funding is to be against people who learn torah and do mitzvos, etc. and goes on to finish talking about Yair Lapid's decrees against the haredim in general.
On this last paragraph of opposition, I disagree, for the most part. Why would the yeshiva boys and girls stop coming just because Lapid cut that small budget? I would be willing to bet that most yeshiva students do not even know, at least not when they decide to come (maybe somewhere during the year they figure it out), that the government gives money to the yeshiva because of them. Most of the yeshivas charge tuition - Mir and a few others are the exception rather than the rule - and the boys do not even think about government funding, let alone make their decision to come or not based on it.
The only reason boys would stop coming as a result of this budget cut is if yeshivas will have to shut down or close their foreign student program because of the loss of government funding. I do not believe any yeshiva will shut down because of it - they will find alternative sources of funding, and might even need to start charging tuition (maybe even just a small amount to make up for this budget cut if not full tuition).
This budget item is definitely important for the yeshivas, and it seems that there is not much gain in canceling it, but to be honest I highly doubt yeshiva students will stop coming to Israel because of it.
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