The Education Ministry said that it would turn down $10 million intended to fund kids’ summer camps in the wake of protests over the source of the cash: a joint Christian-Jewish organization.
In a statement on Sunday the ministry said that it would fund the third, fourth, and fifth grade camps itself.
The move came after pressure from parents and a number of rabbis who voiced concerns that the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which had offered the money, would try and include Christian messages in some of the youth programs.
“In order to enable more students to benefit from valuable and meaningful activities, it was determined that the Education Ministry and local authorities will together fund all the summer school activities in the first and second grades, including the pilot program for 30,000 students in the third to fifth grades who live in outlying areas,” the ministry said in a statement.
The IFCJ funding was originally intended to pay for the pilot program providing daily activities for children in the third to fifth grades.
The ministry noted that the $10 million from IFCJ will instead be used for a separate project that will provide activities for special needs children.
The IFCJ denied that the ministry had rejected the funding due to public pressure and said that once it became clear that the ministry had found the resources to fund the summer camps by itself, the money was diverted instead to the special needs program.
“We joined the summer camps program to ensure that children at the lowest end of the socio-economic spectrum would be able to take part in a free summer program,” the IFCJ told The Times of Israel in an email statement. “The Education Ministry made clear that this was the only way to ensure it happened due to a lack of budget. Seeing as the ministry has now secured the necessary budget we are transferring our attention and funds to those in need who are not part of the program.”
Last week a group of parents petitioned the High Court against the Education Ministry and Education Minister Shai Piron to prevent the IFCJ’s involvement in the summer camps.
In the petition the parents wrote that “there is grave concern that beyond being a funding body, the foundation has a real ability to influence the educational content that will be delivered in the camps,” according to Israel Hayom.
Some 180,000 children are expected to take part in the summer programs.
According to its website, the IFCJ was founded in 1983 and aims “to promote understanding and cooperation between Jews and Christians, and to build broad support for Israel and other shared concerns.” The foundation funds programs that fight poverty in Israel and help Jews from the former Soviet Union, India, Ethiopia, and elsewhere to settle in Israel.