Yet another axe has fallen in Israel, once again specifically targeting yeshivah students. In what is expected to be a particularly painful blow to many yeshivos, Education Minister Shai Piron issued an order changing the support criteria for Torah studies: Beginning in 2014, foreign students will no longer receive any funding. Until the end of 2013, they will receive a reduced allocation amounting to 30 percent of what an Israeli student receives.
When this proposal was first introduced in May, many pointed out that the cuts would hurt the state’s economy, as many foreign students inject cash into the economy and their families are a boon to the tourist industry. The treasury pulled the proposal from the budget, leaving it to the education ministry to decide.
Last June, in a special supplement dedicated to this issue, we detailed some of the enormous amounts of money being spent in Israel by the Orthodox American Jewish community. The time has come for our community to use the influence inherent in such spending, and pressure the Israeli government into rescinding the devastating, discriminatory cuts to chareidi chinuch institutions.
At the same time, those of us in the Diaspora must redouble our efforts to ensure that the legendary mosdos in Eretz Yisrael that have been educating American youths for generations will be able to survive. Inevitably, these yeshivos will be forced to either shut their doors to foreign students or pass the cost on to the parents, many of whom are already struggling to cover the associated costs of sending a child to learn in Israel.
For some bachurim, a year or two of supervised learning in Eretz Yisrael can be a lifesaver, a chance for a new beginning. No one should be denied this chance because of financial obstacles, and when parents can’t carry the financial burden alone, it is our obligation as a community to help them.