H.S. Student Strike Enters Second Day

Israeli students. Photo by Yossi Zeliger/Flash90
Israeli students. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

A student strike at Israeli high schools enters its second day Wednesday, as students protest cutbacks of school trips.

Some 350,000 high school students planned to stay home Wednesday, the head of the High School Students’ Union, Eliav Batito, said. “We are not prepared to surrender our rights as students in Israel. Our struggle will continue. Unfortunately we are not seeing any progress on our demands. We have support from unions and government workers.”

The students apparently learned to protest from their own teachers. Earlier this year, teachers across the government-run public school system decided to cancel all activities outside school – including the Annual Trip for 11th and 12th graders, a highlight of high school life – as part of their protests to demand pay raises. In addition to the trip cancellation, teachers have stopped punching time clocks, and have cancelled all meetings with officials of the Education Ministry.

Batito said that what the teachers were doing was “unforgivable. They are stealing our educational experience and conducting their work protest on our backs. The teachers’ union, led by Ran Erez, is stealing our future.”

The state has sought an injunction against the teachers’ actions, but the teachers’ union responded with a legal opinion that they were within their rights to take the actions. The state has until 5 PM Wednesday to file its own response in Labor Court. In a statement, the union said that it had achieved “significant success in court, with the court allowing us to continue our protest.”

On a different protest front in Israel, driving test examiners have been on strike for over two months, and tens of thousands of scheduled tests have been postponed indefinitely.  The examiners continue to protest the Transport Ministry’s plan to authorize private companies to test drivers for their readiness for the road. Several weeks ago, the Ministry advertised a tender to license private groups to test prospective drivers on their on-road skills.

The tests would be given by driving school teachers, with whom prospective drivers already work. To get a license, students must take a minimum number of lessons (between 3 and 19, depending on the applicant’s age and background), and the Ministry wants to grant the teachers who give those lessons the ability to test students as well. The current Ministry-employed examiners see this as a back-door attempt to replace them with private-sector service providers.