Statement of Christian Schools in Israel 31st August 2015
Christian Schools have been offering their educational services to the children of the Holy Land, from all faiths and denominations, for hundreds of years. The churches and monasteries that own these schools have developed the school buildings and facilities and strengthened the educational and moral message based on the love of God and man. We have been categorized for decades as “Recognized and Unofficial” schools and have been partially funded by the Ministry of Education. However, the policies of the Ministry of Education in the last few years have been drying up these educational institutions. The Ministry started a systematic campaign against our schools by unilaterally cutting its support from about 45%, compared to what was before, to 29% of the total cost of a primary school. The Ministry of Education also closed the door for advancement by not allowing our primary school teachers to participate in training courses designed for teachers. They even prevented Ministry instructors from working with our teachers and thus our teachers are prevented from developing in their academic fields. Recently they have even tightened the noose around our necks with regulations limiting the percentage of tuition we can charge – this is a death strike that will prevent our schools from being able to work!
In order to stop this attack on our schools, the negotiation team that was appointed by the administrative forum of the Office of Christian Schools held intensive and long meetings with government ministries and even the Knesset. They also met with high-ranking foreign officials to explain the crisis to the local and foreign press.
This work has been going on for over a year and a half and included direct negotiations with a committee from the Ministry of Education who suggested that we become “Official schools”. This suggestion was rejected. This government committee also suggested that we become “Special Schools” so that we would be able to collect higher tuition, but this will put a heavy load on the parents. We rejected that too and asked for an increase in the percentage of funding for our schools, equalizing us with other schools that are under the same category.
When we learned that these proposals would lead to an increase in school tuition, at the expense of the parents, and would hurt our educational message, we stopped the negotiations and held a warning demonstration on the 27th of May 2015 in front of the Ministry of Education building in Jerusalem in the presence of 5 bishops, tens of nuns and clergymen and 9 members of the Knesset, in addition to hundreds of parents and staff. The Ministry of Education not only held its position, it accelerated its steps in the northern region by releasing warning letters to several of our schools threatening to not allow the renewal of these schools’ licenses.
Due to the failure of the negotiations, Israeli president Mr. Reuven Rivlen initiated a meeting and invited the negotiation committee and the Minister of Education to his home on the 24th of August. The announcements after this meeting were positive and as a result, the representatives of the ministry and the Christian schools met in order to try to reach an agreement over the budgets. But these meetings failed because the proposed increase did not comply with the minimum demands of the schools and we found that their purpose was just to win time and stop all our protests.
We have seen that the proposed sum does not close the huge gap that years of cuts have created and does not stop the policies of discrimination that that we have endured for years. Therefore we have decided on a series of protest steps starting with an open strike on the 1st of September and we assure you that we have not done this lightly but only after a long study and careful thinking. We will not back off until we receive our full rights. We will also hold several protests that will accompany the strike.
We trust that our parents will understand the steps we are taking and will stand, with God’s assistance, beside their schools and institutions. We commit to compensate the students for any educational loss when this crisis is over and we look forward to the return of our students to school in the near future, by God’s grace.
“If God is with us then who can be against us.”
The Office of Christian Schools in Israel