The new school year began on September 1 for some 2.5 million Israeli pupils, after the Finance and Education ministries reached an agreement to avert a teachers’ strike. Under the deal, teachers’ monthly salaries will increase from NIS 6,920 to NIS 9,000 (about $2,670), while veteran teachers will get a minimum monthly raise of NIS 1,100. “After a long struggle we succeeded in bringing really good news to educators,” said Yaffa Ben-David, head of the Teachers’ Union. Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who visited a school in Rehovot on opening day, said, “Investing in a good educational system with properly compensated young and veteran teachers is an investment in our children and in the future of the State of Israel.”
Two Jewish worshipers sustained moderate wounds early on August 23 when Palestinian gunmen opened fire on their car near the entrance to Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus. The wounded were rushed to the hospital by soldiers, who also evacuated three others with them. The IDF said the civilians had not coordinated their pilgrimage to the site, as required, and security forces arrested two Palestinians suspected of carrying out the attack. On September 4, gunmen fired at a bus driving IDF soldiers on a highway in the Jordan Valley, wounding the driver and six soldiers, one of them seriously. Two suspected gunmen were arrested.
An airstrike on August 25 on the Syrian city of Masyaf attributed to Israel destroyed a warehouse containing more than 1,000 Iranian-made missiles, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. The warehouse, in the northwestern city’s Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) complex, stored thousands of medium-range, surface-to-surface missiles assembled under the supervision of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the report said. Fourteen Syrian civilians and several Iranian-backed militias guarding the complex were wounded., it added.
The Commission of Inquiry investigating the 2021 Meron tragedy released letters of warning on August 30 to former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials, saying that they may be found culpable in Israel’s worst civilian disaster. In response, Netanyahu’s Likud party charged that the warning had been timed to harm him politically ahead of the Knesset election on November 1. In addition to Netanyahu, warning letters were sent to former public security minister Amir Ohana, police chief Kobi Shabtai and others. Forty-five haredi men and boys were trampled to death and 150 injured in the crush that occurred when thousands of pilgrims were leaving the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai after celebrating Lag Ba’omer.
Knesset members Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir announced on August 26 that their respective factions – Religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit – would run on a joint ticket in the November 1 election. The merger of the far-right parties was brokered by opposition leader Netanyahu, who is doing his best to win more than 60 seats for a coalition of the right-wing bloc. Under the merger, Smotrich will head the faction, with Ben-Gvir acting as his deputy in the combined list, named Religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit.
Maj.-Gen. Herzi Halevi will be the IDF’s 23rd chief of staff, Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced September 4. If approved by a committee, he will replace, Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi, in January. 2023 Halevi, 54, an Orthodox Jew who is married with four children, has served as deputy chief of staff, commander of the Paratroopers and Sayeret Maktal, and head of Southern Command and Military Intelligence.
The Bank of Israel raised the benchmark interest rate on August 22 to 2%, the highest level in two decades, in an attempt to tamp down growing inflation. Though higher than forecast, inflation in Israel was lower than the OECD average of 9.1% for July, the central bank said.
Freda Keet, a longtime newscaster for Kol Yisrael’s English News and an accomplished public speaker, died in her sleep at Beit Protea in Herzliya on August 23 aged 77. After serving for three decades as a journalist and radio anchor, the Bulawayo-born, RADA-educated Keet embarked on a career to promote Israel around the world, and was often introduced as “The Barbara Walters of Israel.” Said her former radio colleague, Sara Manobla: “Imperturbable in front of the microphone, Freda would read anything and everything that was put before her with total confidence and conviction. For English speakers worldwide, she was indeed the Voice of Israel.”