New school year set to get underway across country

More than 2.3 million students, alongside nearly 200,000 members of teaching staff, will end their two-month summer break.

Back to school (illustrative) (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Back to school (illustrative)
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Classrooms across the country will return to life Sunday as the new school year gets underway.
More than 2.3 million students, alongside nearly 200,000 members of teaching staff, will end their two-month summer break, including 167,000 first-graders who will take their first steps in formal education. More than 130,000 students will begin their 12th year of studies.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett visited the Gaza Strip border city of Sderot on Thursday to honor the parents and children who experienced a summer that proved far from restful.
Sderot, home to 25,000 people, has regularly been the target of rocket attacks from Gaza.
“As we approach the start of the school year, we have come for a festive event here, to offer strength to our brothers and sisters, the residents of the south,” said Bennett, accompanied by MKs Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Bayit Yehudi) and Ya’acov Margi (Shas), at an event at the city’s community center.
“We are here to bring a clear message to our enemies on the other side of the border – this city, this spirit, you will never be able to break. The spirit of Sderot, of the State of Israel, will win out,” he added, promising to provide quiet and security for residents.
Mayor Alon Davidi praised the education minister for choosing to visit the city ahead of the new academic year.
“This year, too, the children of Sderot will enjoy a wide range of activities in the community center for all ages, including performances and various activities throughout the year,” Davidi promised.
“I am happy to open the school year with Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who cares for the children of Sderot, and chose to come specifically here on the eve of the new school year.”
The theme of the coming school year, Bennett announced, will be “Israeli unity.”
“I am the education minister of 2.3 million students of all origins – Jews, Arabs, Druze, Circassian, religious, secular, ultra-Orthodox. All of them are my children,” Bennett said.
“Every child deserves an excellent education and fair opportunity. After the recent period during which Israeli society has dealt with growing polarization, I believe the remedy for the problem is unity and reconciliation through education.”
The excitement over the first day of school was marred by wage disputes with daycare center workers and bus drivers.
Some 80,000 parents were left without childcare after talks between the Finance Ministry and representatives of dozens of government-supervised daycare center organizations regarding increased pay for workers ended without agreement on Friday.
“If someone thinks that it is possible to solve the preschool problem by paying an extra few dozen shekels to each carer, then they are entirely mistaken,” said a statement issued by organization representatives.
In response, the Finance Ministry said: “We call on organizations that still stubbornly choose not to accept the [ministry’s] proposal to withdraw the threat of strike action, start the academic year as usual and continue the discussions.”
The ministry also stated its intention to seek an injunction to prevent a strike from taking place.
A one-day strike planned by private bus drivers working for public transportation companies that threatened to affect an estimated 250,000 students’ ability to travel to the first day of school was avoided after late agreements were reached.
Representatives of Egged Ta’avura and Superbus drivers reached agreements with company management officials regarding increased pay that were due to take effect last month following a deal struck by the bus drivers union and the Finance Ministry. Drivers will now be paid retroactively as part of the agreements reached over the weekend.
Politicians from across the political spectrum will be visiting schools and speaking to pupils Sunday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will go to a school in Yad Binyamin. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni will visit a Jewish school in Yokne’am and a Druze school in Daliat al-Carmel.
Likud MK Sharren Haskel will be visiting the high school she attended as a child, the Katznelson school in Kfar Saba.
At least two MKs will be going to school with their first-grade children. Zionist Union faction chairman Yoel Hasson will be accompanying his five-year-old son, Ido, in Rishon Lezion.
MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union) will be accompanying the youngest of his four daughters to first grade in Rosh Ha’ayin.

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.