ICC Note: Nearly 50 Christian schools in Israel may be forced to close their doors because of a lack of funding provided for them by the Israeli government. The schools are allowed to operate as Christian schools outside of the regular school system, in a fashion similar to Ultra-orthodox schools. Yet, while the orthodox schools receive 100% funding from the government, the Christian schools and their nearly 33,000 students have seen their support shrink to just 34%.
08/19/2015 Israel (Catholic Sun) Dozens of Christian schools in Israel could be shutting their doors this school year, but a Catholic priest is hoping a meeting with government officials can avoid that.
Christian educators warn that funding discrimination by the Israel’s Ministry of Education may force the closure of about 48 Christian schools, affecting some 33,000 pupils — roughly half Christian, half Muslim — who attend the institutions.
Many of the educational institutions existed before Israel’s founding in 1948 and have excellent academic records countrywide.
Educators on the Christian schools committee said they have withstood prodding by the Education Ministry for the schools to become part of Israel’s officially recognized school system. Such a move would mean losing the schools’ Christian identity, ethos and the ability to teach Christian values.
“The Education Ministry is financially strangling the Christian schools that have existed for hundreds of years,” said Franciscan Father Abdel Masih Fahim, president of the committee of Catholic schools.
But Fr. Fahim told Catholic News Service he is expecting something positive to result from a meeting expected with Israeli Education Ministry officials Aug. 23.
“We are waiting for a solution. All children in Israel should have their rights from the government,” he said via telephone from Ramla, Israel.
While Christian schools and those of the Jewish ultra-Orthodox are recognized by the state, they are not part of Israel’s official educational system. This allows them to create their own curriculum according to their religious beliefs and values, appoint their own principals and teachers and have authority over their own buildings.
But that’s where the similarities end. Israel’s Education Ministry provides 100 percent funding for 200,000 ultra-Orthodox students in religious, nonpublic schools, but has whittled its finance of Christian schools over the past decade down to about 34 percent, Fr. Fahim said, quoting a study by Israel’s parliament.
“We want 100 percent funding for all children,” the priest said. He said that Christian schools also do not receive the new technology available elsewhere.