A Response to “The Missing Community in the Fight for Christian Schools”

Editor’s Note: This blog entry is written in response to Sharona Weiss’s article “The Missing Community in the Fight for Christian Schools“, which was posted on October 6, 2015.

Dear Sharona, I applaud your efforts in trying to get to the bottom of this. I think you did a fine job drawing out many of the sources and trying to find a root cause. I think you missed the mark however because it appears that your sources are limited to only one side of the issue. Having experience in the education system definitely sheds a lot of light on this issue for many of us, and having had many discussions with the leaders of some of the Christian schools as well as the Messianic schools in Israel, I don’t think the issue is discrimination at all. I think its socialism.

Live in Israel long enough and it becomes blatantly clear that nearly everyone in the country thinks you should send your kids to “gan” (pre-school) and public schools. The reason they always give, “socialization.” We homeschool our kids and I have to tell you, the pressure to include our kids into the public education system is huge. I don’t think that the Minister of Education Naftali Bennet was being at all disingenuous when he said, “I am the Minister of Education of all Israeli children, without preference of religion, race, gender or sexual preference. There is no discrimination by religion or race, there is preference of public schools over private ones and that applies to Jews as well.”

There are a lot of factors that come into play, including the current legislation regarding private schools that are not taken into consideration in the media articles on this topic. For one, if all of the Private Schools received all of the finances that are promised to them by that 75% rule, the Ministry of Education may very well go bankrupt. As it stands now, only a small percentage of private schools request those funds. The biggest block of schools that don’t take those funds are the Jewish religious schools. Now its possible that they get government funds through a different ministry and that’s a different issue. On the one hand the Ministry of Education needs to prepare for the time in which all of the private schools DO decided to request their government mandate funding. On the other hand the ministry needs to find a way to control the funds in such a way that the education system will still function. Lastly, those in the education system and public office are extremely driven in their desire to see every citizen go through the public education system, and this drive comes from the socialist roots of the founding of this country.

That’s why I do find it disingenuous when the leaders of Israel’s communist party in Israel call it discrimination. They are clearly playing politics and know full well that what’s behind this are more robust and ideological issues, and it has nothing to do with discrimination. When I read articles in the media on these issues it became apparent that certain Arab MK’s will jump at any chance to make the news and say anything to get in the headlines, even when its totally false. Fairly typical for most politicians. But on this issue, only the Arab MK’s were calling it discrimination, and its not accurate or fair.

I can’t speak for every Messianic believer in the country, but one of the first things I did, already knowing some of the background, was contact those in Christian schools and see what they are saying. I received a very different picture than what was presented in your article.

Its not that there was no reason to support these schools and support their strike. I’m in agreement that we could have done more. But I think that most Messianic believers in the country did not get in line with the Christian school strike for two reasons. First, Messianic Schools in Israel are not yet recognized by the Ministry of Education and still operate without any state funding. So only a few Messianic families were directly affected by the budget crisis. Although this may seem petty, keep in mind that it takes a lot to get someone out to strike. I’ve never been on strike unless it was a teachers union strike, and I was a teacher at the time. Most personalities aren’t your strike/protest types. However, if it was your school or that of your friends, you are much more likely to go out for the strike. Secondly, most Messianic believers are Israeli citizens and as such, to a certain extent, socialists. They actually believe in the public school system and the necessity of teaching their kids Israeli values through the school system. Why would they go out in support of Christian schools to which they have no connection, and differ ideologically. That being said, there is a movement to question the morality and ethics in the public schools, but at the moment there are very few parents able to send their kids to an alternative to the public schools. As a result the average Israeli Messianic leader is still invested emotionally, financially and physically in the public school system in one sense of another. Therefore, it should be no surprise at all that Messianic leaders were silent. But it is not due to prejudice.

It is also worth noting that some of the teachers in some of the Christian schools are Messianic and did strike along with their colleagues. So, Messianic believers were represented, even if the leaders did not speak out. Also important to note, although Messianic leaders are fairly vocal, they are not vocal on internal politics in general. When there was a massive cottage cheese boycott, how many Messianic leaders spoke out? This did directly affect them, but they chose to remain quiet for the most part, because its important for them to choose their battles wisely. Although, I understand the frustration that some of the Christian Arab leaders may feel about the budget crisis, I don’t think they were necessarily expecting Messianic leaders to stand up against the Ministry of Education either. Especially when the Messianic community only has two elementary schools and one college, none of which are recognized by the state and one of them is actively pursuing recognition. Standing up against the Ministry of Education’s decision on finances would certainly not engender a positive response from the ministry for the Messianic applications for government recognition. As bad as the financial cut backs are, I’m certain that the Messianic elementary school would be very pleased to have even those limited funds.

I hope that I have at least eluded to the fact that the situation is not nearly as clear cut as it seems and that there are many angles with which to view this situation, and the only wrong angle is to focus on discrimination as the root cause. Certainly, discrimination exists, but it is limited in scope to isolated individuals and rarely is the cause of public policy and budgeting decisions. The ideological view that all Israeli citizens should be taught consistent values and history regarding the state is certainly a driving force behind the emphasis of the “public school” priority of the Ministry of Education, but this is part and parcel of the socialist roots and culture of the State of Israel since its inception.