Several thousand striking Christian protesters have demonstrated in Jerusalem against funding cuts and what they describe as unequal treatment by Israel's education ministry.

The protesters, including bishops and other church leaders, demonstrated outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office, accusing Israel of cutting their funding as a tactic to pressure them to join the Israeli public school system.

"This is discrimination and you know we pay all our dues and as citizens of this country, we are law-obeying citizens and we deserve equal rights," Ibrahim Fakhouri, a parent from the Arab city of Nazareth, told the AP news agency.


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As a protest, 47 Christian schools with some 33,000 pupils have not begun the school year, which was supposed to start in Israel on September 1.

The protesters claim that the Netanyahu government prioritises Jewish schools and its cut in funding will force parents to send their children to public schools, interfering with their Christian values.

To compensate for cuts in public funding, the Christian schools have raised tuition fees, a burden for the Arab community whose average income is generally lower than the national average.

"We, all the Arab Christian schools, are demanding equality. There is no equality for our schools," said Ragheed Massad, a student from Nazareth.

Christians form around two percent of the population in Israel, where the majority of people are Jews.

The majority of the country's Arab citizens are Muslims.

Source: Agencies