The Magnificent Continuity of Do-nothingness in Israel's Education System

The three extra days of school logic this month defied all educational logic.

The word is “bridge.” Not “holiday,” not “vacation,” not “R&R.” Bridge is a simple concept, just a structure by which you get from one side to the other. So there we go, we’ve moved from the Yom Kippur side to the Sukkot side. No big deal, three days and there we are. Simple, no?

This decision by the Education Ministry − three extra days of vacation − let hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren − and thousands of teachers, of course − start the Sukkot vacation (itself a long 11 days) immediately after Yom Kippur. Three days in the middle of life, just like that, because we felt like it. It’s ostensibly a small decision, just 72 hours, but it betrays motives that simmer below a raft of self-important words.

The big words are “teacher,” education” and “our children’s future” − pathos-laden terms supposed to represent the way we seek to shape the future of this place. But after all that serious weight is heaped on those formal syllables, one little pin called bridge is enough to let out all the air.

It’s perfectly clear that the bridge defied all educational logic. It arrived after almost two months of summer vacation, after which the children went back to school for a few days that were abruptly terminated by the four-day Rosh Hashanah break, after which there were just five more days of school, with the 11-day Sukkot break hovering in the background. You don’t have to be an educational psychologist to realize that this isn’t a vacation schedule but chaos, and that bridges, tracks and bypasses are being built to worsen the chaos.

The bridge decision was infantile. True, it was made by the Education Ministry’s Committee for Holidays − newspeak for “if you don’t accept it, we won’t let the school year open.” But it’s a decision geared toward students, not teachers. Students surely spotted the opportunity to stretch a rope between one break and the next to create a magnificent continuity of do-nothingness.

That moment in the living room, with the rugelach and the black coffee, when grown people jumped at the chance to manipulate the calendar was a key moment. “Hey, we can rack up two straight weeks of holiday here.” That moment stripped away the teaching profession’s near-messianic patina, uncovering another variation of Israbluff.

The fact that “education personnel” − the people responsible for “our children’s future” − made the decision reveals the flimsy platform on which this whole drama rests. Actually, this flimsy platform was obvious two years ago in the demand by “education personnel” to put right the terrible plunder by which five whole vacation days were taken from them, undermining the conceptual format of the Holy of Holies: summer vacation and its two full months.

I’m sure many school and preschool teachers objected to the bridge and didn’t feel represented by the Education Ministry bureaucracy. But in the end, the manipulation wormed its way into reality. In the end, the teachers are represented by two people. Teachers union chief Yossi Wasserman declared that “holidays are an integral part of our terms of employment,” while Ran Erez, head of the Secondary School Teachers Association, opined that “if parents don’t have anyone to leave their children with, they should take up the matter with their employers and get more vacation days.”

Oh yes, there’s also Education Minister Shay Piron, who’s bursting with good intentions and understands the problem perfectly. I wonder if he has met the person responsible for the farce.

Eliyahu Hershkovitz