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The Hebrew University of Jerusalem junior faculty will begin an indefinite strike today, the first day of the second semester. Members of the junior faculty union say their instruction hours were reduced by 10 percent during the first semester of the academic year, cuts they said were made "without any warning or discussion."

All university courses taught by junior faculty members have been canceled until further notice. Union representatives estimate that 850 course hours will be lost each week the strike persists. The junior faculty union represents master's and doctorate students, adjunct teaching staff, and laboratory and other instructors.

Union chairwoman Esther Sarouk said her organization was initially told that the reductions would be small in scope, only to see class and lab hours reduced by 10 percent. "Master's and doctorate candidates have been forced to seek out their future at other universities," she said.

"The large cut in the hours of teaching assistants has caused serious harm to the quality of instruction at the university, and is close to causing irreversible damage," said Prof. Nir Shaviv, chairman of the university's senior faculty union.

Hebrew University released the following statement in response to the strike: "The second semester will begin as planned, and we hope a solution can be found soon. The university administration is in constant contact with the junior faculty union and is therefore stunned that it chooses to strike at the expense of students. The university is dealing with budget difficulties, but is making tremendous efforts to hold the academic year as scheduled. Some of the cuts were aimed at meeting budgetary goals, while not inflicting substantive damage on students."