Batei medrash and yeshivos will be exempt from local arnonah (real estate) taxes under a bill passed on its first reading in the Knesset Wednesday. The bill, sponsored by MK Rabbi Yoav Ben-Tzur of Shas, now goes back to committee for preparation for its second and third reading.
Currently, houses of worship, including shuls, and, lehavdil, mosques and churches are exempt from arnonah. Places of prayer where learning takes place are also generally exempt, but until now there has been no national exemption for buildings that are primarily yeshivos, although many local authorities and municipalities have local bylaws that provide exemptions for yeshivos in their towns.
In towns where such exemptions have not been granted, heads of institutions have petitioned the High Court to expand exemptions to their buildings if it is used for prayer, and not just learning, such as conducting a daily or Shabbos minyan. The court’s rulings on the petitions have been mixed, with some of the institutions being granted exemptions, and others not. The law seeks to correct that situation and expand the exemption nationally, said Rabbi Ben-Tzur.
“So far, no one has been able to explain to me the logic of differentiating between two buildings where the exact same activity takes place, and why one would have to pay arnonah and another would not,” said Rabbi Ben-Tzur. With his bill, that distinction will become a thing of the past, he added.
The bill was approved with 59 in favor, 17 opposed, and four abstentions.