Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Palestinian pupils in Israel strike in support of Christian schools’ struggle

By Editor - September 08, 2015
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Palestinian citizens of Israel] [Christians ]

Palestinian citizens of Israel work to refurbish the destroyed Christian village of Iqrit in the northern Galilee. 8 April 2014. Photo Credit - Dylan Collins.

Approximately 450,000 Palestinian students in Israel skipped their daily journey to school yesterday, after Arab schools across the country called for a solidarity strike in support of struggling church affiliated schools. 

Israel’s 47 Catholic schools have been on strike since the beginning of the school year last weekend in protest of government budget cuts that allot them a third of the sum allocated to Jewish ones.  

Thousands, including leaders of the Catholic Church in Israel, demonstrated on Sunday outside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Jerusalem office to demand additional state funding for church schools, where some 30,000 students learn, 40 percent of whom are Muslim.  Christian and Muslim parents and students, as well as Knesset members and Arab mayors from across the country, were in attendance as well. 

Church affiliated schools throughout Israel fall into the category of “recognized but unofficial,” meaning that although they are not part of the state school system, they are government accredited and, up until two years ago, received 75 percent of funding given to regular state schools, with families asked to pay the remained in tuition fees. Two years ago, however, the state cut the sum given to church affiliated schools by another 34 percent. 

Despite the ongoing protests by the church schools, there has reportedly been no progress in negotiations with the Education Ministry, head of the forum for Christian schools in Israel Father Abdel Messih told Ha’aretz on Monday.

Messih argued that the ministry’s proposal that the schools join the state system is unacceptable because it means, “expropriating the schools and their cultural and educational history and heritage, some of which goes back hundreds of years.”

MK Ayman Odeh, the chairman of the Joint Arab List, made clear to point out that “almost a third of Arab university gradutes and an absolute majority of Arab high-tech workers are graduates of the very schools that the government is now trying to paralyze. It’s impossible to talk about development and equal opportunity on one hand, but on the other hand harm the very schools that are succeeding in breaking the glass ceiling.” 

MK Masud Ganaim, the representative of the Islamic Movement within the Joint Arab List, argued that the catholic schools are “among the best in Arab society, and therefore their struggle is our struggle.” 

Nazareth Mayor Ali Salem went even further in his statement. “This isn’t the schools’ private problem, but an issue for all of Arab society,” he said. Other Palestinian mayors and school parents’ committees throughout Israel echoed Salem’s message, stressing that both Christians and Muslims study at the church affiliated schools. 

The message of demonstration organizers and Palestinian MK’s alike are clear: funding the church affiliated schools is a gain for Israel, not a loss. 

According to the Catholic schools, the Israeli Education Ministry has been cutting funding to them for past six years, with a significant drop in the last two, while simultaneously placing caps on the tuitions they’re permitted to charge students. 

Moreover, the Catholic schools argue they are being discriminated against when compared to the two main ultra-Orthodox school systems. The Hinuch Atzmai school system, affiliated with the United Torah Judaism party, and the Ma’ayan Hahinuch Hatorani school system, affiliated with the Shas party, are similarly not part of the state system—they often refuse to teach basic curriculum subjects like English and math—however, they receive 100 percent of the funding provided to regular state schools. 

The church run schools are demanding state funding of 200 milion shekels (nearly $45 Million) so that they can do away with the tuition charge all together. Up until now, however, the Education Ministry has only offered 20 million shekels. 





















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