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Israel's Palestinian schools strike in support of Christians

Sept. 7, 2015 9:21 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 8, 2015 9:57 A.M.)
Arab Israeli Christian students protest to demand more funds for Christian schools on September 6, 2015, outside the Israeli Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem (AFP/Menahem Kahana)
Jerusalem (AFP) - Most of Israel's Palestinian schools observed a one-day strike on Monday in solidarity with Palestinian Christian schools which have been protesting state funding cuts, Palestinian and Israeli officials said.

Almost all of the 450,000 Palestinian students in Israel stayed away from school, said Jafar Farah, the head of the Mossawa centre that promotes the rights of Palestinians in Israel.

A spokesman for Israel's education ministry told AFP that "a majority of Arab schools observed the strike".

But Farah said teachers in some schools held classes under "pressure" from the ministry.

Palestinian Christian schools have been on strike in Israel since the academic year started last week, with parents and school officials accusing the government of discrimination in funding their establishments.

Christian school officials say they receive only a third of the subsidies that Israel provides Jewish schools, and that they will stay on strike until their demands are met.

At a rally outside the prime minister's office on Sunday, schools official Wadie Abunassar appealed for "equal treatment".

"We are demanding that the state give us 200 million shekels ($53 million) per year," to make up the difference and cover costs, said Abunassar.

Up until two years ago, Palestinian Christian schools in Israel received 65 percent of their budget from the state, with parents paying the balance, but that figure was cut then to 34 percent two years ago

The Palestinian Christian school strike affects 33,000 pupils, 40 percent of whom are Muslim.

It comes against the background of tensions following attacks by Jewish extremists on Christian churches.
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