Two weeks before the new term begins, Christian schools in Israel have expressed grave concerns that budgetary restrictions imposed by the Israeli state could force a number of schools to close down, and harm the education of more than 30,000 children.
On Monday, August 24, the heads of some 48 Christian schools of Israel met in Galilee to reflect together on the way forward. A delegation of several school leaders also met with the president of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, and the Israeli minister of education, Naftali Bennett.
During the meeting, Rivlin praised the role played by Christian schools and their educational mission that can be traced back to hundreds of years. The Israeli president underlined the role of the Christian schools in boosting education, and expressed his “support for the need to maintain these schools and the necessity of back them through lawful means.” Israeli Minister of Naftali Bennett pledged to work out a plan “to solve the budget crisis of the Christian schools.”
Father Faysal Hijazin, secretary general of the Christian schools in Palestine had earlier said: ““Our demands are simple. Our schools have the right to be treated like the others, and our children have the right to education, like all other Israeli children.”
This dispute between the Israeli government and Christian schools, which have the status of “recognized school but non-public”, has continued for some time. During the last ten years, the budget of the State of Israel allotted to Christian schools fell by 45 per cent, thus forcing these institutions to increase tuition fees charged to the families, whose income, for the most part, is below the national average. This already difficult situation, worsened last year, when new regulations of the Ministry imposed a limit on the contribution of families.
The leaders of the Christian Schools denounced a discriminatory policy of the Israeli authorities against their institutions and are demanding equal treatment with other Israeli schools, that is to say a total funding. “What is at stake is the survival of our schools,” said Father Faysal.
In May, these same concerns were expressed during a rally/demonstration attended by hundreds of people, including representatives of the Church which was held in front of the headquarters of the Israeli Ministry of Education.
Christian schools in Israel have around 30,000 children, Christians and Muslims, offering them a quality education based on Christian values of love, brotherhood and forgiveness.