Protesters adopt public education as new cause

1,000 march in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv to improve education as part of move toward social justice.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
August 5, 2011 02:06
2 minute read.
Protesters in Jerusalem

Protesters in Jerusalem 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

 
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Nearly 1,000 people marched through downtown Jerusalem on Thursday evening demanding an increase in funds for public education, as part of the revolutionary spirit for social justice sweeping the country.

The demonstrators marched from Gan Hasus (Horse Park) in King George Road, the epicenter of the tent protests, and ended at the Education Ministry next to the Mea She’arim neighborhood.

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Hundreds marched in Beersheba and Kiryat Shmona, and more than 1,000 marched in Tel Aviv.

Chanting “the nation demands public education!” the march drew a more diverse crowd than the tent demonstrations this week, with hundreds of teachers and children.

The marchers protested against a shrinking budget, unequal distribution of funds, a lack of support for informal educational programs, and other issues.

“Israel’s great teachers, like David Yellin and Janusz Korczak, would be really sad if they saw the state of Israeli education today,” Amnon Rabinovich, the director of the Jerusalem Awakening activist movement, who is also a history and citizenship teacher at Ziv High School, told the crowd outside the Education Ministry.



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Protest organizers expressed satisfaction with the march, which they claimed was the largest demonstration for public education in five years.

“It’s hard to get teachers out the house,” said march organizer Yair Fink, one of the central figures at the tent protest in Jerusalem.

“I think it’s really wonderful that they’re out here asking for changes in the educational system,” said another history teacher, also named Amnon, who had his four-year-old daughter on his shoulders. “It’s really important that she comes also to see this,” he said.

Some have criticized the protest movement for trying to incorporate too many causes and requests into their list of demands, pointing out that with too many causes, the core issues will get lost in a sea of noise.

Amnon denied that the tent protest demanding an improvement in education would cause a lack of direction.

“Everything belongs to the same idea: social justice,” he said. “It’s all connected – apartments, healthcare, education, social issues – they all come together.”

Others joined the protest with more specific demands within the general call for an improvement in public education.

Over 100 master’s and doctoral students and adjunct lecturers from universities and colleges across the country joined to protest their situation as contracted workers who are hired seasonally with no job security.

“We represent a general situation of the way people are employed in Israel,” said Gadi Prudovsky, an adjunct lecturer in philosophy at the Hebrew University and the University of Haifa. “The way the whole Israeli job market is going is the direction in which employers want to buy work without any commitment to the worker,” he said.

He added that in addition to thousands of lecturers who work without contract, most of the manpower at universities, including janitors and guards, also work without contracts.

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