JERUSALEM – Christian schools demonstrated last Sunday in Jerusalem. As a sign of solidarity, all other Arab schools in the country joined this open strike starting Monday.
Students and their families, professors, Christian and Muslim representatives, mayors of Galilee, Arab Knesset members: they were around 6,000, coming from Galilee and Jerusalem, gathered on Sunday in front of the offices of the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to say “no” to the “discriminatory” policy of the Israeli Government against Christian schools. These schools, under the pretext of budget restrictions, have been on an open strike since the 1st of September.
A right, not a “charity”
“We are asking for a right, not for a charity!” said Ayman Odeh, an Arab Knesset Member, in front of the crowd of demonstrators. “We don’t want to eat the crumbs that fall from the Ministers’ table”, he further said, in reference to the Bible episode of the Canaanite woman (Mt 15). Indeed, equality of rights is one of the main claims of Christian schools, especially considering the outstanding results they achieve. About 34 % of Arab University students come from Christian schools while those schools represent only 4 % of the Arab schooling sector. “An overwhelming majority of Arabs working in the field of High Tech in Israel comes from these same schools which the Government attempts to paralyze”, Ayman Odeh said. “We cannot talk about development and equality on the one hand, while threatening successful schools on the other hand”, he pointed out.
Mobilization goes higher
Christian schools, called “recognized but nonpublic” ask the Government for a subsidy of 200 million shekels (US $ M 50), in order to face budget restrictions which entered in force two years ago: The Israeli Ministry of Education offers a maximum financing of 20 M NIS (US $ M 5). This proposal is not enough and unacceptable to Christian schools while they are close to the economic strangulation. More determined than ever, they assert the mobilization will carry on at any cost, and will spread wider, as long as their claims are not met.
Meanwhile, the movement is gaining grounds: all Arab schools of Israel –nearly 450 000 students – declared to join the strike movement, in sign of solidarity with Christian schools. It is noteworthy that a new meeting between the Ministry and the Office of the Christian Schools is scheduled for Wednesday 9th of September.
Manuella Affejee & Haaretz
Source: Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem