(photo credit: )
Israel's two national student unions are planning for a long-term strike as the shutdown of Israel's colleges and universities entered its 11th day Sunday.
"A quarter-million students are striking for nearly two weeks while the prime minister [Ehud Olmert] has refused to discuss the future of education in Israel," said National Union of Israeli Students chairman Itay Shonshine, accusing the prime minister of neglecting his duties toward higher education.
Student leaders have demanded that Olmert meet with them to discuss their demands for dismantling the Shochat Committee and lowering tuition, while the Prime Minister's Office has said the prime minister would not negotiate directly with the students.
The unions plan to hold a large rally in Tel Aviv on Wednesday evening. According to a press statement, the demonstration will take place in the plaza of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art on Rehov Shaul Hamelech, with pop singer Aviv Gefen expected to perform at the event along with other artists. According to the Tel Aviv Student Union, Gefen has agreed to perform for free.
At issue are the unions' concerns over expected recommendations by the Shochat Committee to raise tuition and enact other reforms in higher education.
According to the student unions, the lecturers' unions were fully behind them. The lecturers themselves had gone on a one-day strike before reaching an agreement with the Committee of University Presidents that required the their agreement before implementing Shochat Committee recommendations regarding their wages and tenure contracts.
Meanwhile, high schools were expected to be operating normally Sunday after the Secondary School Teachers Organization decided to suspend their strike temporarily to allow schools to mark Memorial Day, which begins Sunday evening.
The teachers also agreed to renew negotiations with the Education and Finance ministries after a labor court last Monday ordered that their strike not harm high schoolers' ability to take the first part of their matriculation exams.
The SSTO had tried to "delay" some of the exams due to difficulties coordinating a strike that froze some of the teachers' duties, but did not shut down the schools. After an Education Ministry appeal to the labor court, however, the judges said the "delay" was an infringement of the court order, and reiterated that the union was not permitted to hinder the matriculation examinations.