Christian schools in Israel “are at risk of collapsing financially,” said Abdel Masih Fahim, general secretary of The Office of Christian Schools in Israel, in a May 23 statement.
There are currently “47 Christian Schools in Israel owned by Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Church of Scotland, Christ Church and Baptist Churches … [that] consist of 33,000 Christian, Muslim, Druze and Jewish students from all around the country,” the statement noted.
Government funding for these schools has declined by 45 percent over the past six years, Fahim explained, which led to a 27-day strike in September 2015.
As funding declined, caps were placed on the amount of tuition that Christian schools could charge students, which meant the schools could not increase tuition enough to offset the budget deficits.
Over the same period, funding remained steady for state-run public schools and Orthodox Jewish schools.
The strike ended on Sept. 28 when the Israeli ministry of education agreed to provide 50 million shekels ($12.7 million) in funds for the Christian schools. The schools agreed to reduce tuition by 25 percent to compensate students for the lost days.
“The Israeli Government has not honored their commitment to transfer 50 Million Shekels to the Christian Schools,” Fahim said. “The Ministry of Education has not offered any solution for the financial crisis in Christian schools.”
A special commission set up to address grievances of the Christian schools has met three times since the strike ended, resulting in a proposal that the schools join the public education system.
The schools are unwilling to accept this suggestion, which they also rejected previously, because the “ultra-Orthodox Jewish Schools, who are supposedly in the same category of schools in the Israeli system, receive full funding from the government whilst keeping their autonomy.”
“We came to understandings that half the amount would be transferred by the end of 2015 and the other half by the end of March, but we’re getting close to the deadline and we haven’t gotten anything,” Botrus Mansour, general director of the Nazareth Baptist School, told Haaretz.
He told EthicsDaily.com, “We would expect that Israel deal with its Christian citizens with decency and fairness. Christian schools are a vital component in the Christian presence in Israel and hurting them means undermining the Christian presence in the country. We expected that after the strike and agreement that the Israeli government deal with us in good faith. We are disappointed as this clearly is not the case.”