Runners in Tel Aviv during the marathon.
Runners in Tel Aviv during the half-marathon. Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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The decision to cancel studies in Tel Aviv schools and kindergartens due to the marathon to be held in the city Friday is inexplicable.

Aside from the absurdity of closing down the city’s education system for a marathon – something not done elsewhere in the country or in foreign cities – the way the decision is being imposed suggests some shortcoming in the Education Ministry, and something sneaky in the Tel Aviv municipality.

The municipality, having decided to call off studies for an event that is commercially sponsored in its entirety, pressured the Education Ministry to approve its move, claiming the traffic disruptions caused by the marathon would prevent children from getting to school on time.

The ministry and municipality say they decided to call off studies after reaching an agreement with the teachers’ unions. The unions promised “to return” the canceled school day at the end of the Passover vacation.

The teachers’ unions now deny they had agreed to this and have already announced that the teachers intend to come to the schools and kindergartens on Friday, as usual.

This is not the only embarrassment this decision is causing. The Education Ministry, which had confirmed the city’s request, argued in its official response that the permission to shut down the city’s schools and kindergartens was given due to the blocked roads involved in holding the marathon. However, ministry sources said it is not clear how the move was approved and that in future the ministry will not enable closing down schools due to similar events.

The city, which invited the students to take part in the marathon (for a fee) and to come to encourage the runners, took measures to silence any criticism of the event.

Tzipi Brand, head of the municipal faction “Pay Attention, Parents,” objected to closing the schools. She said 70 percent of the city’s children walk to school and kindergarten, a fact that is incompatible with the city’s arguments for closing the schools due to traffic disruptions and difficulties to get to them.

Brand also said that according to a legal opinion she obtained, the Education Ministry was not authorized to revoke a school day because of a commercial event. Following her statements, Brand was ousted from her positions in the city council and her membership in the municipal education committee was revoked.

A marathon is a lively event, one of many that are held in the city and make the local residents and tourists love it. But calling off a school day for such an event is not legitimate and the Education Ministry must announce today that studies will be held as usual.