Arab Christians in Israel stage school strike to protest funding cuts | News | DW | 06.09.2015
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Arab Christians in Israel stage school strike to protest funding cuts

About 2,500 striking demonstrators have gathered outside the prime minister's office in Jerusalem. Demonstrators are angry at a slash in funding for Christian schools.

Thousands rallied Sunday in Jerusalem to demand more funds for Christian schools which they say receive a third of what the Israeli government allocates to Jewish ones.

Israel's 47 Christian schools have been on strike since the academic year started last week, with parents and school officials accusing the government of discrimination in appropriations.

"This is discrimination and you know we pay all our dues and as citizens of this country, we are law-obeying citizens and we deserve equal rights," Ibrahim Fakhouri, a parent from the Arab city of Nazareth, told the AP news agency.

Christians make up a fraction of Israel's 20 percent ethnic Arab minority. In the birthplace of Christianity, Christians are currently less than 2 percent of the population of Israel and the Palestinian territories.

"We pay our taxes and therefore we must have the same rights as everyone," Manal Issa, a mother who came with her two children, told the AFP news agency.

Minority schools' funding slashed

Israel Protest von christlichen Studenten in Jerusalem

Arab Israeli Christian students hold placards in Jerusalem during a protest to demand more funds for Christian schools which they say receive a third of what the Israeli government allocates to Jewish schools

Under a longstanding arrangement, Christian schools and other private schools that manage their own affairs receive partial government funding, with the remainder of their budgets covered by either donations or tuition paid by families.

Up until two years ago, Christian schools in Israel received 65 percent of their budgets from the state, with families making up the difference, but that figure was cut then to 34 percent two years ago.

The government funds cover roughly three-quarters of private schools' standard costs, but the state has been cutting back on other supplementary funding, leading to increased tensions between the government and religious minorities.

"We, all the Arab Christian schools, are demanding equality. There is no equality for our schools," Ragheed Massad, a student from Nazareth, told AFP.

Although they have not experienced the violent persecution that has decimated Christian communities elsewhere in the Middle East, the population has gradually shrunk over the decades as Christians have fled conflict or sought better opportunities abroad.

There are about 150,000 Christian citizens of Israel and about 50,000 Christians spread out in occupied east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

A dozen Arab Israeli members of the Israeli Knesset also joined Sunday's demonstration as armed police stood guard outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office.

School officials said the strike would end only when Israeli authorities meet their demands.

jar/se (AP, AFP)