Palestinian Christian schools end strike after temporary agreement (Photo: Maan News Agenc)
Palestinian Christian schools end strike after temporary agreement (Photo: Maan News Agenc)

Al-Quds, 14 Dzulhijjah 1436/28 September 2015 (MINA) –  Thousands of Palestinian schoolchildren will attend school for the first time this academic year, after Palestinian Christian schools in Israel announced the end of a nearly month-long strike on Sunday.

Abdel Massih Fahim, a Franciscan priest and director of the Catholic church’s Custody of the Holy Land which oversees the Christian schools, told Ma’an that the 47 Christian schools across Israel had reached a temporary agreement with Israel’s Ministry of Education.

The agreement will see the ministry allocate a one-time payment of 50 million shekels ($12.6 million) to the Christian schools. Maan News Agency quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting.

“Tomorrow morning, we are happy to say we will open the schools,” Fahim told Ma’an. “We arrived at an agreement with the Ministry of Education, but I want to stress that this is not a final agreement.”

Fahim said the schools had created a committee to continue negotiations with the Israeli government in order to come to a permanent solution for the budget constraints and lack of funding experienced by Palestinian Christian schools in Israel.

“Until we achieve complete equality we will not accept a permanent agreement,” Fahim said. “We don’t accept that this current agreement is equality, but through the committee we have created, we will explain why we have the right for equality and we will demand better in the future.”

The strike, which affected 33,000 Palestinian pupils 40 percent of which are Muslim as well as 3,000 staff, was announced last month, with parents and school officials accusing the government of discrimination in funding their establishments.

Christian schools in Israel reportedly receive a third of what the Israeli government allocates to Jewish schools.

Fahim reported earlier this month that Israeli government funds only cover 29 percent of costs for Christian schools.This was down from 65 percent state budgeting two years ago.

Meanwhile, Christian school officials say that Jewish schools that are also recognized by the state but not considered official public schools receive funds that cover 100 percent of their needs.

The Israeli education ministry has disputed this, saying that there is no difference in funding to Christian and Jewish schools.

Christians school officials have demanded that the state provide 200 million shekels ($53 million) per year to cover school costs.

Earlier this month, most of Israel’s Palestinian Muslim schools observed a one-day strike in solidarity with the Christian schools, with almost all of the 450,000 Palestinian students in Israel staying away from school.

The Christian schools’ strike came against the background of tensions following attacks by Jewish extremists on Christian churches. (T/P002/R03)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)