Hundreds of parents and children from Christian schools demonstrated near the Haifa home of Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon on Saturday night, as their protest against budget cuts entered its third week.
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Over the past six years, the Education Ministry has reduced funding to Israel’s 47 Christian schools, which are attended by some 33,000 Arab-Israeli children. The schools have shuttered since the academic year began on September 1 in protest against the cuts.
Saturday’s protest was the latest in a series of moves that parents have taken in coordination with the church-owned schools, after meetings with representatives of the Education Ministry and Prime Minister’s Office were unsuccessful last week.
The parents are expected to stage another protest on Sunday when cardinals and other senior European church officials attend the annual meeting of clergy in Israel. One grievance is that, despite the protest, the two senior representatives of the Catholic Church in Israel – Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal and Apostolic Nuncio Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo – have not spoken out on the issue. The Catholic Church runs most of Israel’s Christian schools.
Neither the prime minister nor the education minister has responded publicly on the matter. Economy minister Arye Dery and Senior Citizen Affairs Minister Gila Gamliel met with leaders of Arab communities in Nazareth on Thursday. However, parents and children disrupted the meeting and asked the ministers to intervene to find an immediate solution. Gamliel said she had only received the information over the past week and was seeking a solution that would be brought to the cabinet.
The government used to fund 65 percent of Christian schools’ budgets, with parents paying the rest. However, the amount the state pays was cut to 34 percent in 2013.
Some of the children who took part in Saturday night’s protest carried apples and honey, and asked that they be taken to Kahlon with a New Year’s greeting.
A protest tent has also been erected opposite Education Ministry offices in Nazareth and Haifa, with dozens of parents and children visiting the tent each day.