After monthlong strike, Christian schools open in Israel

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Israeli-Arab fourth-grade students pray in Aramaic during language class in 2012 at Jish Elementary School in Israel. Students at nearly 50 Christian schools are back in session due to increasing restrictions by the Israeli government. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)
Israeli-Arab fourth-grade students pray in Aramaic during language class in 2012 at Jish Elementary School in Israel. Students at nearly 50 Christian schools are back in session due to increasing restrictions by the Israeli government. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)

JERUSALEM (CNS) — Christian schools opened in Israel Sept. 28 after an almost monthlong strike demanding equality in budgeting.

School officials and the Ministry of Education reached an agreement just before the Jewish Sukkot holiday.

“We see this as a wonderful achievement as we … not only got a one-time sum but (also) a committee (dealing) with the change of the legal status of the schools will be established, and that will bring a long-term solution,” the Secretariat of Christian Schools in Israel said in a statement released Sept. 27.

According to the agreement, the Israeli Treasury will allocate a one-time sum of $12.7 million to the Christian schools in the current school year. Christian school teachers also will be included in the different professional development programs of the Ministry of Education — they had been excluded — and students will be included in the additional strengthening hours provided by the Ministry of Education for different subjects.

The Ministry of Education will continue to pay the monthly payments for the Christian schools as usual — thereby allowing the schools to reduce tuition by 25 percent for their primary students — and the schools will compensate the students for the days lost during the strike.

There are 47 Christian schools in Israel with a total of 33,000 students.

An official commission with equal representatives from the ministry and the secretariat will present recommendations to the ministry by the end of March regarding the legal status of the Christian schools in Israel; the ministry’s final determination will have an impact on the funding for the schools.

Another joint commission will be charged with discussing matters of importance to both parties.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who had been following the negotiations and had held meetings with both parties, said he believed the agreement was reached by “establishing trust between the two sides.”

“I hope it will lead to the strengthening of relations (and) moving forward,” he said in a statement. “I wish the students and teachers much success for a productive and enjoyable year.”

In its statement, the secretariat noted the current and future importance of the support it received from members of the Israeli government and parliament, as well as from people abroad, and the exposure their case received in the international and local media.

By Judith Sudilovsky, Catholic News Service.

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