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Senior lecturers who have been on strike for over two months met Saturday evening with the presidents of the country's public universities as part of a last-ditch effort to reach a labor agreement. University heads say they will cancel the first semester of the academic year if no resolution is reached by Sunday. The two sides met Friday, but failed to reach an understanding.

The university presidents have set Sunday as a deadline for the professors to return to instruction, warning that failure to do so would leave them little choice but to cancel the first semester.

The National Labor Court will deliberate Sunday on the university heads' request for an injunction against the striking lecturers.

An official who has taken part in the discussions - during which there were no government representatives - said that both sides are offering creative solutions which would avert the need for court-ordered injunctions.

Bar-Ilan University's president, Prof. Moshe Kaveh, who also serves as chairman of the Council of University Presidents, said following Friday's meeting that both sides would make every effort to avoid a semester cancellation.

The lecturers countered that a semester's worth of studies can still be salvaged even if the labor stoppage is not settled before Sunday. Both sides have a window of up to two weeks to come to an agreement enabling studies to resume without the academic year interfering with next year's calendar.

"January 13 is not some holy date," said Dr. Lev Grinberg, the head of Bar-Ilan's Department of Sociology and Anthropology. As such, lecturers would be unable to travel to conferences in the summer and to continuing education programs abroad as is their custom.

Professors holding senior administrative positions in departments, institutes and university committees threatened Wednesday to resign if the Labor Court rules in favor of injunctions that would force the striking lecturers back to work.