Holiday Hullabaloo / Parents, Teachers Debate Merits of Shorter Vacation

In accordance with the recommendation of a public committee, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar approves a new school schedule, which will shorten the August summer vacation but lengthen school holidays on Sukkot, Hanukkah and Passover, except in Arab areas.

The Education Ministry's decision to shorten summer vacation in the country's schools has sparked criticism from some parents, students and teachers. Others, however, praised the move for making it easier on parents to find an appropriate setting for their children in August, and for giving teachers more uninterrupted school time between vacations.

Schools and kindergartens in Jewish areas of the country will start the new year on August 26. In deference to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the school year in Arab areas will start on September 1.

Gideon Sa’ar
Tomer Appelbaum

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar approved the new school schedule, which will not add school days since the vacation days from August will be added to Sukkot, Hanukkah and Passover vacation. The move is in accordance with the recommendation of a public committee.

Some parents and travel agents complained that the timing of the announcement will require families who have already made travel arrangements in August to alter their plans. The change also affects summer schedules for teachers, who return to the classroom before students.

"The Education Ministry announcement is late for us," said Amir Yisraeli, a secondary school teacher at the Dror school in the Sharon region, "because for us at the school, we return to work two weeks before the end of the summer." He also noted that other preparations, such as a student trip to Poland, are keeping the school busy. He did agree, however, with the wisdom of shortening summer vacation and adding the time to other holiday periods.

The new plan will provide a continuous vacation period from Yom Kippur through Sukkot, which Yisraeli supports.

"When [students] come for one day between the holidays, I know they're not concentrating," he said. The extra week at the beginning of the year will provide greater continuity, he added.

Not all students are thrilled with the change. One petition calling for the restoration of summer vacation days has attracted 73,000 signatures. Aya, a ninth grader at Tel Aviv's Ironi Hey school commented, "On one hand, it's smart to combine vacation days during holidays, but it won't be the same summer vacation. It has always been two months, and I would prefer that it stay two months."

The head of the public committee that recommended the change, former Finance Minister director general Shmuel Slavin, told Haaretz yesterday that he had wanted to cut a full two weeks from summer vacation and was supported by his committee colleagues, but the Finance Ministry refused to budget the additional funds that would require.

Slavin said all of the research suggests that children, especially those from deprived backgrounds, have a hard time getting back to their school work after a long vacation. He also noted the change was announced three months in advance, which he said was reasonable. "If someone reserved a vacation, there is enough time to switch dates," he said.