Christian schools in Israel have been on strike since the beginning of the school year and did not open the academic year 2015-2016. They are protesting a decision by the Israeli government to shrink their funding, to a point that it became impossible for them to survive.
While public schools in Israel are 100% funded by the government, Christian schools receive partial government funding. However, this support has dropped dramatically in recent years, to only 29% from the Christian schools total operational cost. In comparison, Orthodox Jewish schools receive 100% funding.
One of the schools on strike is the Nazareth Baptist School, which was established in 1936 by the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Around 25 years ago, Southern Baptists stopped sponsoring and funding the school and it is now run by local Baptists. The school is dependent on state funds, in addition to fees collected from students. As state funding has declined, student fees had to be raised, but most parents would not be able to pay a higher fee. In addition to all this, the ministry of education has put a limit on student fees allowed. All this has left the school in a fragile financial situation as it does not do fundraising for its operations.
Nazareth Baptist School is the only Evangelical school in Israel and serves 1000 kids. From its outdated buildings on the main street near Mary’s well, it provides some of the best education in Israel and has a long waiting list of families who wish to enroll their kids. They come because of good education and also because of the Christian values taught at school. During the year, the school conducts different spiritual programs that present the love of Christ to all children.
Christian schools in Israel were established by different churches to provide quality education where the public system has failed. Most Christian children attend these schools and many Muslem families chose to send their children to these Christian schools where the student grades are above the average in the country and the graduates contribute to the society in a positive way.
Christian schools are also a safe-haven for Christians in Israel who are minority within a minority. While they teach most of the subjects taught at public schools, they also emphasize the local Christian identity and are key in strengthening the Christian witness in the land where God dwelt and became one of us. Christian schools are probably the flagship project of Christians in Israel and this project is in danger of being shut down.
33,000 students in 47 schools have been on strike and did not open the year yet. The Israeli government does not seem to be in a hurry to solve this issue, as Christians in Israel are a small peaceful minority that does not have lots of political power.
Christians in Israel, together with their friends, are very upset about the situation, and feel that they are not treated fairly. While they share the burden in paying taxes, the government is not even keeping the partial support it provides to their education.
Christians do not see this as a funding problem only, but as an attempt by the Israeli government to obtain control over their schools and possibly turn them into public schools. However, Christians who are squeezed in many different ways in Israel and the Middle East in general, wish to continue having some degree of autonomy in their schools, making sure quality education is kept and the Christian identity and values are preserved.
- Pray for the leaders of the Christian schools in Israel, the teachers, the students, and the parents. Pray that they will not be discouraged while they are on strike and that they will continue to be persistent in their demands until injustice is lifted.
- Pray that while Christian Schools are unfairly treated during this time of turmoil, that they will keep their witness to their Muslem and Jewish neighbors.
- Pray that God will touch the hearts of the people in authority in Israel to find a just solution to the crisis of the Christian Schools.
Bader Mansour is the Development Officer of the Association of Baptist Churches in Israel