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Israel: Teacher's Strike Over

An agreement between the teachers union and the Ministry of Finance was signed just a mere 15 minutes before the Israeli Labor Court's restraining order was activated, in what has ended the longest strike in Israel's education system (over 60 days). Teachers received a raise in their salaries and the prime minister's personal promise to reduce the number of students in a classroom.


Teacher demo outside the Finance Ministry as night talks take part in hope of ending the ongoing strike. source

Throughout their struggle, the teachers used a variety of communication methods to spread their messages and describe their struggle online, if through active forums, or numerous blogs through the major Israeli portals.

Shoshi, a biology teacher, kept an active blog and recently posted a podcast of her recent appearance on the radio, where she describes the problems that arise with the existing average age of teachers in most Israeli schools – 52. She claims that most young teachers leave their jobs after four years, seeking better employment conditions. She describes her fears for the future of education in Israel.

Many reactions were posted on the topic of the teacher's dilemma when confronted with the court's decision to place a constraining order on their strike. The court ruled that even if negotiations fail, teachers must end the strike by Thursday, December 13th.

In his post, Sagi writes:

Once in 30 years does such a powerful public outcry form that can really change the face of Israeli society. If we stop the strike now, we win nothing for 30 more years, and we will return like dogs to the classrooms.
Personally, I prefer to resign and not come back.

Avshalom Adam makes an interesting argument, comparing the teacher's dilemma to that of Socrates:

Socrates was accused of disobeying Athen's laws – hurting youth ethics in the city, harming its gods, and was sentenced to death. He accepted this sentence, even though he, along with a section of the public, considered himself innocent. Socrates could have escaped Athens and the death sentence, but he chose to stay and drink the poisonous cup. He claimed that his duty was to obey the city laws, even if those were not just nor used fairly. His reasoning was that an act of obedience to the law is in its essence more important than one's opinion towards its content or the way in which it is used. In his eye, the law's function is to provide a peaceful solution for problems amongst the public and between them and their state. Disobedience towards the law harms its status and reduces its effectivity to fill its duty, hence – claimed Socrates – it is necessary to always obey the law, even when one feels that justice or ethics are harmed.

The teacher's dilemma reminds us of Socrates dilemma: on the one hand, if they obey the court's ruling, their ability to put pressure on the government to settle on a fair wage for their hard work, and to help provide conditions to educate kids on an appropriate level, which will lead to accomplishments for the country as a whole. On the other hand, if they do not obey the law, they serve as a negative example in the kid's eyes, whom they teach to follow the laws.

…The teacher's strike comes at a time when we all find out – again – that Israeli students are ranked very low by international standardized testing. How much is this current crisis connected to the fact that the teacher's wage does not allow them to lead a respectful lifestyle? Is it connected to the size of classrooms, or number of teaching hours? In their strike, the teachers are asking the Education Department to take a moral responsibility in the current education crisis in Israel. The teachers demand the government to come to conclusions and to react before it is too late. Should they retreat from their demand, if it is the law that requests them to? This makes me wonder if by abiding the law, teachers will be forced to drink from the poisonous glass of the Israeli democracy.

1 comment

  • […] post several weeks ago on failing to follow the rules. This topic came up again as I was writing a recent Global Voices post. There, I described a blogger’s opinion on the Israeli teachers union response to the court […]

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