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After months of struggle between the teachers and the government - the former demanding an increase of salary while the later insisting on longer hours for any such increase, Ran Erez, the chairman of the teachers union, surprised negotiators early this week. He waived the demand for salary increases. From this point forward the versions and explanations differ, depending on who you ask.

The teacher's union had initially demanded an increase of 50 percent in exchange for a longer work week - 40 hours instead of the current 24. But the additional hours that teachers agreed to were administrative rather than classroom hours, for time spent in pedagogic meetings, parent-teacher meetings, grading tests, and so on. Erez felt that teaching longer hours would simply result in devaluation of the teaching hour, say union sources.

A week after the strike began on October 10, the teachers had backed down, lowering their demands to a 20 percent, then 15 percent increase in salary.

Teachers are now expected to return to school after the prolonged strike with a much smaller raise, possibly as small as 5 - 6 percent, part of which was due to them in any case. With an average monthly salary for high school teachers with 15 years experience at NIS 7,800 - the treasury says that the average is NIS 7,800) an increase of a few hundred shekels.