The strike at high schools and some junior high schools entered its fifth day on Monday, with rhetoric heating up as teachers planed rallies and government officials claimed the educators are refusing to negotiate.
"We're going to keep on as long as it takes, and we'll succeed," a Secondary School Teachers Organization representative said ahead of Monday night's demonstration at the Tel Aviv Museum.
Many public figures participated, from MKs Avishay Braverman (Labor) and Zevulun Orlev (National Religious Party), to former education minister Yossi Sarid and National Union of Israeli [University] Students chairman Itay Shonshine.
Secondary School Teachers Organization officials said the government had backed down on threats to turn to the labor courts to stop the strike, and that the strike would not be broken through legal action.
Various parties continued to call on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to personally intervene to end the stalemate between the Secondary School Teachers Organization and the Finance Ministry.
Knesset Education Committee Chairman MK Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad) reiterated his call for Olmert "to intervene in order to solve the crisis. This strike has no solution, and the current level of negotiations is incapable of producing a breakthrough."
"The prime minister should bring together the education minister, finance minister and teachers' organizations and launch intensive negotiations. This will be done in any case in another week," Melchior said.
The teachers' union has been demanding Olmert's involvement in the negotiations over a collective wage agreement since before the strike began last Wednesday. Now, that call has been joined by figures inside and outside the education system.
"Education, even after the [Second] Lebanon War, is no less important than security," said former National Security Council chairman and Tafnit Party founder Uzi Dayan, who also attended Monday's rally. "The struggle for real reform begins with the status of teachers. Even those who think teachers are the problem know that teachers are the solution."
Dayan also called for "the prime minister to do the right thing for once, before he's forced to do it anyway."
More events are planned in the near future to draw attention to the strike that has shut down some 1,200 high schools and several hundred junior high schools, leaving almost 500,000 children without an educational framework. On Wednesday, several dozen teachers will arrive at Tel Aviv's Kikar Rabin after spending the past few days walking from the Carmel along the Israel Trail.
Education Ministry and Treasury officials scoffed at the strikers, saying the union was unwilling to negotiate over the NIS 1.3 billion already set aside for wage reform that would increase both salaries and work hours. Education Minister Yuli Tamir repeated statements from the past week that "the strike will achieve nothing, and the teachers have to sit down to negotiations."
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