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The Secondary School Teachers' Association (SSTT) striking high schools and half of the junior high schools is threatening that the strike could go on for weeks or even months. The teachers are replacing the port workers in the public's mind as the "official, serial national strikers," whom everyone is sick of and hates.

If I may prophesize: The strike will not last for long.

The two sides are interested in ending the crisis quickly.

The government sees the schools as an essential public service, and the teachers do not receive salaries while on strike and are scared of parents organizing alternative arrangements, at least in better-off areas.

But before we accuse the teachers of pulling the trigger on the strike weapon too quickly, let's put things into proportion.

Last year the teachers concentrated their efforts on sporadic, specific battles and not on a nationwide strike. One time they closed the schools in the North, another time in Tel Aviv and on a different day in Jerusalem.

Considering that the situation of Israeli teachers is so poor - along with that of the entire educational system - their fight seemed awfully mild.

The average salary for a beginning teacher is less than NIS 5,000 a month. After 10 years of experience, it does not even reach NIS 6,000 - 25 percent below the average wage.

How are parents and students supposed to relate to teachers who receive such miserable pay? It is no wonder that the status of Israeli teachers is among the lowest in the Western world.

The secondary school teachers strike is very annoying: Teenagers are wandering around doing nothing, filling up the malls and beaches. The preparations for the matriculation exams for 12th graders may also be postponed.

But this strike is also different. The port workers are striking, demanding salaries of NIS 15,000 or 20,000 a month, or they are fighting for bonuses and nepotism in hiring at the ports.

The teachers are out on strike for a few shekels, not for bonuses or overtime. They want a small rise in their insulting salaries and an improvement in their eroded reputations. They certainly are not fighting to have their relatives hired by the Education Ministry.