Israeli Parents Rally in Demand of Free Preschool Education

Hundreds gather in 'stroller march' at Tel Aviv Museum; say raising children in central Israel is unaffordable.

Hundreds of parents and children gathered Tuesday afternoon in a "stroller march" outside the Tel Aviv Museum demanding the introduction of free education for preschoolers and the extension of maternity leave to six months.

Balloons filled the museum's courtyard, baring the motto, "The law of free education for preschoolers".

Stroller march, Na'amat - 30.8.11
David Bachar

Talia Livni, chairwoman of the Na'amat women's organization said in a speech to those attending the rally, "We have been raising the issue of free education for preschoolers for nine years already. They say we're dreaming," she said.

"The Israeli government doesn't notice us," Livni continued. "This is not a transparent revolt. This is a transparent generation that is finally revealing its face."

Livni said parents should have the right to raise families with as many children as they wish, but unaffordable preschool education makes that impossible.

"Two children at preschool or at private day care centers costs NIS 6,000 per month. Since there are not enough places at public preschools what choice do we have? Show me mothers who have a net income of NIS 6,000 per month," said Livni.

One of the protesters, Irena, a Tel Aviv mother with one daughter, said "We are here because we are dealing with financial expenses far beyond our means. Approximately half of my income goes toward pre-nursery play group. There is no money left to pay the rent once all the other costs are covered. It is impossible to survive in the center of the country."

Irena said that it costs NIS 3,000 to send a child to play group five days per week in central Tel Aviv. "This is half of an average salary," she said.

Stav Shafir, one of the leaders of the social protests that have swept Israel over the past couple of months, said Tuesday's rally was a fight against the privatization of children's' future.

"We are fighting here against the privatization of our children's future, against a future that is defined by how much money I have to invest in education, childcare and enrichment. Whether or not I can afford to have children depends on how much money I have. That is not the sort of country I want to live in."

Protest organizers prepared "checks" upon which protesters can write the sum they believe must be allocated to education, that will be sent to the finance minister, prime minister and other Knesset members.