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ISRAEL – The Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem: “No more discrimination against Christian schools”

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Jerusalem (Agenzia Fides) – The strike that Christian schools have been conducting for two weeks against the discriminatory policies implemented against them by the Israeli government represents a battle to defend education, “basic human right that should not be denied to any young person”.

13 Patriarchs and heads of Christian churches in Jerusalem contextualize the struggle waged by Christian educational institutions, that since the beginning of the school year have not yet opened the schools, to protest the cutting of state funding by the Israeli government. “It hurts us” write Christian leaders in a statement released on Wednesday, September 16 “to see 33 thousand students of all faiths and denominations who remain out of classes”, while hundreds of teachers and employees spend their days of mobilization in empty schools.

The statement points out that the battle of justice against discrimination of Christian Schools began two years ago, when severe budget cuts imposed by the government led many Christian schools to pay in a situation of financial deficit. In the statement, the solutions proposed so far by the Israeli Ministry to overcome the crisis are defined unrealistic or pejorative. “For hundreds of years”, says the text sent to Fides “our schools offered high level education. Our commitment to the service of education and in the promotion of our society is rooted in our very mission and our vision”. The statement refers to the Ministry of Education and the Government of Israel to put in place measures that lead to the immediate suspension of the strike, responding to the right and certainly not exorbitant demands of Christian schools. The Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem hope that the story will eventually lead to the full restoration of the rights and the due respect to Christian schools”, so that they can continue their educational mission, for the glory of God and at the service of humanity”.

The budgetary constraints imposed by the Jewish state are at the root of the protest, which put at risk the very survival of educational institutions animated by the Churches and Christian communities in Israel. In a few years, government subsidies to Christian schools have declined by more than 45%, forcing the institutions to increase the school fees paid by families, often with low incomes, below the national average.

The 47 Christian schools in Israel are attended by 33 thousand students (of whom only half are baptized) and employ 3 thousand teachers. State subsidies, which until a few years ago covered 65% of the fees, have been dramatically reduced and now do not even cover 30% of the expenses. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 17/09/2015)

 

Christians make up slightly over 2% of Israel’s population.  Christians are mainly Arabic speaking and attend Orthodox, Protestant, Catholic churches. These Christian schools recognised but unofficial by the Israeli government, are attended by Christians, Muslims, Druze, including Jews and considered some of the best in the country. These schools are known for their success and contribution to Arab and Israeli society, were mostly founded before the establishment of the State of Israel. In secular schools where Jewish students considerably out-perform their Arab classmates, Arab students at Christian schools do far better.

It’s been claimed that Jewish ultra-orthodox schools, also classified as ‘recognised but unofficial’, still receive full funding from the state. However, the Education Ministry reports there is no difference in the funding of Christian and Jewish schools of recognized but unofficial status. They also stated that Christians had been offered a number of ways to resolve the differences but had rejected them while choosing to close the schools “at the students’ expense.”

Botrus Mansour, the general director of Nazareth Baptist school said, “We will lose our control, message and our identity,” he says, adding that under the proposed regulation, the state would be responsible for appointing teachers and principals, as well as choosing the students. source

On September 6, some 450,000 Arab Israeli pupils stayed home as their schools called a strike in solidarity with the Christian schools. Yesterday, students in the country’s Christian school system came out in droves to demonstrate in Haifa and other places. Protests continue on this 17th day of the strike.

Outraged by the discrimination against them, many believe the budget cuts, which also puts a cap on tuition fees, are a death blow to the continuance of Christian schools in the nation.

UPDATE Sept. 27, 2015:

The Christian schools have been on strike since the school year began on Sept. 1 to protest cuts in government funding. Christian leaders have said the cuts amounted to discrimination.

 Under Sunday’s settlement, the Education Ministry said it would cancel the budget cuts and allocate a one-time payment of roughly $12.5 million to the Christian community in Israel. In addition, the ministry and Christian schools agreed to form a committee to resolve any remaining areas of disagreement by next March. more at source
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