ASIA/HOLY LAND - Christian schools: "positive" meeting with President Rivlin. But the crisis remains open

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Jerusalem (Agenzia Fides) - The Secretary General of Christian schools in Israel interprets his meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to discuss the crisis facing Christian schools in Israel as "a positive step". Nevertheless, according to the co-ordinating body the solution of the crisis "requires further negotiations" and therefore "schools will remain closed until further notice". The declaration of suspension of school activities is confirmed in the press release of the Secretariat also widespread in the media of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
The same document provides some details of the meeting which took place on Monday, August 24, 2015 in Jerusalem, between the Christian Schools Committee chaired by Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar for Israel of the Latin Patriarchate - and President Rivlin. The meeting was attended by Israeli Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, accompanied by a Delegation of the Ministry. "President Rivlin" the statement said "opened the meeting by saying that he appreciates the role of Christian schools in Israel, stressing the importance of the exceptional educational experience they have been providing for many years". Minister Bennett reaffirmed support for Christian schools in the country and the commitment to seek solutions to the budget crisis faced by them. Christian schools have agreed to prepare a technical report on the financial statements and the financial aspects of its educational activity.
On May 27, the Christian schools of Israel - attended by 30 thousand students, of which only half are Christians - had staged an unprecedented demonstration to denounce the discriminatory policies made by the government (see Fides 27/05/2015).
They belong to the category of schools "recognized but not public" and receive partial funding from the Ministry. The rest of the cost is covered by the fee paid by parents.
For years, the Ministry of Education attempts to reduce the budget of Christian Schools (in the last decade by 45%), and this has forced Christian schools to increase the cost borne by households. The cut in funding mainly affects parents of the Israeli Arab population whose average family income is below the national average.
Prior to that event, a committee appointed by Christian Schools in Israel had carried out negotiations with the Ministry for eight months, and the Ministry had proposed Christian schools to become public schools. This proposal was interpreted by the owners of schools (churches and monasteries) as the end of Christian education, and a serious blow to the Christian communities of the Holy Land. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 27/08/2015)