Christian schools went on strike to protest years of decreased government funding and restrictions placed on tuition rates. (Image courtesy of Ambro/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Leaders of the Israeli government and the nation's Christian schools have reached an agreement enabling students to return to school.
Christian schools went on strike Sept. 1 to protest several years of decreased government funding and restrictions placed on tuition rates that made it impossible for them to continue educating some 33,000 students in 47 schools.
On Sunday, the Secretariat of Christian Schools in Israel announced that the schools would reopen on Monday, Sept. 28, in a statement describing the terms of the agreement reached with the ministry of education.
The Israeli treasury will provide 50 million shekels ($12.7 million) in funds for this school year, professional development programs for teachers and educational support for students at the Christian schools will be available for the first time, and the schools will reduce tuition by 25 percent to compensate students for the lost days.
In addition, a joint commission will be established to facilitate future funding discussions, address any additional concerns and mediate disagreements.
"The support we got during the last month in the government and Knesset [Israel's Parliament] as well as abroad in addition to the public exposure in Israeli and international media will provide a platform to implement any positive recommendations that the commission will have for Christian schools," the statement said.
The European Baptist Federation was one group offering support to the schools.
During its 2015 council meeting, held Sept. 23-26 in Sofia, Bulgaria, delegates approved a resolution praising the positive academic and societal contributions of Israel's Christian schools, while urging the government "to exercise justice in the crisis ... and to provide funding equal to that provided to other religious affiliated schools in the same category."
Pope Francis also weighed in on the situation during a meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Sept. 3.
The pope expressed hope "that an adequate solution be found for various matters of common interest, including the situation of Christian schools in the country."
Rivlin celebrated the end to the standoff, praising the education ministry and Christian school leaders for the agreement that he hopes "will lead to the strengthening of relations moving forward."
Yohanna Katanacho, academic dean of Nazareth Evangelical College, told EthicsDaily.com that he is thankful for the agreement that allows his children to return to school.
"It was hard for us to explain to them that they are treated as second-class citizens. The Ministry of Education and Finance made it much harder for us to teach our children that we can have a future in which Arabs and Jews are equal in Israel," he said. "But we as parents insisted on affirming the value of justice and nonviolent resistance to what we consider as systemic evil."
Katanacho praised the positive results of the nonviolent approach, while emphasizing that "we are still not where we should be."
Even so, he said, "the future ... looks much more promising even though extremism and bigotry continues in our country."
He shared that "our children understood that fighting inequality in nonviolent ways is a great means not only to get their own educational rights but also to build a better future for their country" and requested continue prayers "for full equality for both Arabs and Jews in Israel."