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Religion and Society

The Mission of Christian Schools in the Holy Land

Religious institutions have gone on strike against proposed budget cuts by the Israeli government

The strike lasted four weeks and ended only when an agreement was reached. At the height of a heated debate in Israel between the government and Christian schools, the parties established an agreement that allowed students to return to their desks on 29 September. It was a small victory for Christian institutes, who for months had been engaged in a battle to be considered equal to other schools in Israel on the issue of budget cuts.

 

 

The reopening of the school year coincided with a strike that was announced by Christian institutes, who accused the right-wing government of discriminating against them. In Israel, private religious schools, regardless of their denomination, are part of the education system as ‘approved and unofficial schools'. The Ministry of Education has a legal obligation to allocate funds to institutions of religious inspiration, both Christian and Jewish Orthodox. However, Orthodox Jewish schools receive 100 percent of the quota allocated for them, which the ministry pays to public institutes, and enjoy the same rights, while until now Christian institutes have only received 75 percent of summ, without guarantee of the rights reserved for other schools. In addition, from 2009 to 2013, Gideon Saar, the then Ministry of Education, gradually reduced the funds for Christian schools down to 29 percent of the starting share, and increased fees for each student. Christian schools have therefore encountered financial difficulties and many have since closed. In addition to this, there is also the matter of education. It should be remembered that Orthodox Jewish schools are religious schools in all respects, so they are following their own educational programme, which is different to the government programme adapted by Christian schools.

 

 

Building an identity

 

 

The educational traditions of Christian schools date back to before the creation of the State of Israel and for 150 years they have played an important role in the Palestinian community. Indeed, the doors of these institutes have always been open to everyone: Christians, Muslims, Druzes, and the students are educated on tolerance. However, these schools have started to feel discriminated. In September, 33,000 students stayed at home, asking to be treated like the other 1.7 million Israeli students. Demonstrations took place in many Israeli towns and villages, and in Jerusalem. The protests were an attempt to attract the attention of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had remained silent on the matter. The Prime Minister often states that Christians live in freedom in Israel, suffering no discrimination or problems, unlike in the rest of the Middle East. The Israeli media have also remained silent, only acknowledging the demonstrations.

 

It should also be noted that when he was Ministry of interior, the same Gideon Saar favoured the creation of an Aramaic nationality for Christians, as an alternative to Arab nationality.

 

 

Protest among different denomination

 

 

The Israeli government first proposed that it take on the management of Christian schools, turning them into public schools. The church authorities refused, fearing for the fate of the inherent Christian nature of these institutes, which allows Palestinian communities in Israel to express themselves freely and to preserve the memory of their history in an open and tolerant environment. Furthermore, it should not be forgotten that these schools have the important mission of educating on peace, justice and love, on coexistence and on the respect for others and the respect for diversity. In addition, if the Christian communities were to lose their schools, there would be nowhere else where Palestinian Arabs could be educated on love for their homeland, peace and justice. The fact that the strike has involved individuals belonging to different faiths is a preliminary indication that the mission of the Christian institutions is successful.

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