Thousands Protest as High-School Teachers' Strike Continues

Several thousand supporters joined a teachers' union protest in Tel Aviv on Monday night. An ongoing strike affects approximately 400,000 students.

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz,

Several thousand teachers, students and supporters joined a Secondary School Teachers' Association protest in Tel Aviv on Monday night. Public school teachers walked out of their middle and high school classrooms last week in protest over ongoing delays in negotiations on salary and benefits. The strike affects
There is no end in sight for the strike, which concludes a full week on Tuesday.
approximately 400,000 students, some of whom may face delays in receiving high-school diplomas.

"No one will break us," association head Ron Erez said at the rally.

There is no end in sight for the strike, which concludes a full week on Tuesday, following failed negotiations between teachers and the Education and Finance Ministries on Sunday night. Secondary School Teachers' Association officials said that there had been no progress at all in the discussions on Sunday. At the time, Erez slammed the government's offer, saying, "I wouldn't sign that [agreement] even if I was drunk."

The Knesset's Education Committee discussed the strike on Monday. Officials in the Education and Finance Ministries warned that if no progress is made in the near future, they will turn to the courts in an attempt to force the teachers to return to work.  Officials explained that the strike harms students in 10th to 12th grades, who need to prepare for their Bagrut (high school graduation) exams.

Uzi Dayan, the head of the Tafnit political party, told reporters on Monday night that he believes the teachers' strike will succeed. "Israel's government must be awakened from its apathy," Dayan said.

Former Education Minister Yossi Sarid, a Meretz party veteran, said the teachers' protest "might be the most important social struggle that Israel has had in years." However, Sarid was less optimistic than Dayan, saying, "I don't see the government waking up. I haven't heard the Prime Minister say a single word about the strike."

Religious Studies to Continue
Teachers in the religious public school system have not discontinued religious studies during the strike. About 17,000 students attend public religious schools. The chairman of the Religious Public Education Council, Rabbi Avi Gisser, called a special meeting Sunday of the heads of the state religious educational networks to discuss their position. The meeting concluded with a decision that the high school yeshivas (for boys) and ulpanas (for girls) will continue religious studies as usual during the strike. Rabbi Chaim Druckman, director of the Bnei Akiva state educational network, including dozens of yeshivas and ulpanas, said, "We are not opposed to the strike, but we have a religious duty to teach Torah."

All secular studies have been discontinued in the religious public schools in line with the Secondary School Teachers' Association strike. 
"We are not opposed to the strike, but we have a religious duty to teach Torah." -- Rabbi Chaim Druckman

Higher Education Institutions May Also Strike
Several universities are threatening to delay the opening of the coming semester, scheduled for next week, in protest over the government's failure to increase the budget for higher education.

Education Minister Yuli Tamir met with President of Bar Ilan University Professor Moshe Kaveh, the head of the University President’s Committee, and with Higher Education Council head Professor Shlomo Grossman on Monday evening in an attempt to prevent a strike in universities next week. Government Cabinet Secretary Ovad Yechezkel took part in the meeting, as well.

Earlier in the day, the Hebrew University joined Bar Ilan in repeating its threat to suspend classes next week. The universities' administrators are demanding a budget increase of NIS 300 million, which they say the government promised as part of an earlier agreement.





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