Israel’s Christian schools may close pilgrimage sites

Julie Wiener

(JTA) — Christian leaders in Israel are considering closing popular pilgrimage sites such as Nazareth’s Basilica of the Annunciation and Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre in a push to pressure the government for more funding for their schools.

Leaders of Israel’s Christian school system, which has been on strike since Sept. 1, said Wednesday they may seek the closure of several popular holy sites, Agence-France Presse reported. More than half of all tourists to Israel are Christian, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

About 33,000 students attend 47 Christian schools in Israel, most of them Catholic, according to AFP. School officials say they receive only one-third as much government funding as comparable Jewish schools and that they plan to continue striking until their demands are met.

“Pilgrims who come here and see the sites closed will ask why, and hear about Israel’s anti-Christian discrimination,” Botrus Mansour, principal of a Baptist school in Nazareth, told AFP.

Israel’s Education Ministry denied the funding difference and said Christians had rejected several offers to resolve the conflict, instead choosing to close the schools “at the pupils’ expense.”

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