Babylon & Beyond

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ISRAEL: Parents saved by the bell

December 13, 2007 |  6:30 pm

The longest teachers strike in Israeli history is over. The two-month hiatus ended after a final, 20-hour negotiation push before a court order sending teachers back to work was going into effect. The junior and high school teachers got a raise and promises for reforms, such as reducing the number of students in classrooms.

Israeli Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On hailed the last-minute agreement as "important to education in Israel" and Education Minister Yuli Tamir was pleased the back-to-work injunctions would not have to be enforced. Strike leaders claimed success and achievement of all goals but some teachers felt they were sold cheap and betrayed by their representatives. A placard at a demonstration in Tel Aviv this morning summed up this sentiment with a bitter statement of math: "40,000 teachers, 60 days, 1 knife in the back."

Typically, parents' and students' nerves were stretched to the last minute, as they waited by the radio early this morning until the announcement was finally broadcast not long before beginning of the school day. Hundreds of thousands of teenagers then slouched off to school, where teachers had been told to explain the strike and discuss conflict in democratic societies with their students.

Walking the dog early Sunday morning, I bumped into a dozen or so of the neighborhood's teenagers just getting in from a night-long party. Now kids can expect all-nighters of a different kind — and parents some relief.

— Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem