Hurt, Frustrated Teachers Consider Resigning, Ignoring Court

Frustrated, angry and hurt, many striking high school teachers said yesterday that they have decided not to resume work after the Hanukkah vacation, despite the back-to-work orders the National Labor Court issued Tuesday.

"I will not return to school under an injunction or work in a system that operates by injunctions," says Gili David, a teacher at the Beit Tichon high school in Jerusalem. "Perhaps I'll take sick days and then resign."

Yesterday, the day after the court order, several teachers in Jerusalem gathered and decided collectively not to resume teaching. High school teachers, who have been striking for more than six weeks nationwide, said they felt humiliated and frustrated.

"It's like a slap in the face," says Tomer Bliti-Dagan, a teacher at Jerusalem's High School of the Arts. This description came up repeatedly in conversations.

The court ruling also suggests that the teachers failed to convey their struggle's main messages - changing the country's priorities and the legitimacy of the fight - to the court, the public, cabinet and society.

"The court has pushed us to the wall," says Ben Lev-Kadesh, another teacher at Jerusalem's High School of the Arts. "It would have been fairer to order the sides to continue negotiating, and if there's no progress, to reconsider the request for back-to-work orders. Instead the debates will now be held with the Finance Ministry knowing it doesn't have to compromise - it already has the injunctions. As a result, the teachers association will be forced to sign a bad agreement; otherwise the teachers would be working by force of injunctions."

The teachers must now decide on their next move. A refusal to return to work is likely to be followed by disciplinary measures by the local authorities, who are the teachers' direct employers.

"The wider the refusal, the less significant the sanctions will be," says Asher Cohen, a teacher at the Kvutzat Yavne high school. The teachers are also considering coming to school but not teaching. In such a labor protest, teachers could refrain from anything beyond their formal instruction hours.

Several teachers say they will resign or leave teaching at the end of the school year. In any case, the repercussions of the court order will be seen only in several months.

"How are we supposed to teach civics or treat the state's 60th anniversary?" asks Itay Yavin, a teacher at Jerusalem's Ziv school. "What good things could I say about a government that chooses to end a dialogue with violence, with court injunctions? It's a frightening thought that you cannot conduct negotiations here without having a gun pointed to your head," he says.