Summertime and the Living Is Easy, but All Too Short for Schoolkids / Israel's Children to Head Back to School Six Days Earlier This Year

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar gives final approval to changes; the decision does not alter the number of school days or holidays during the school year.

The summer holiday will be cut by six days and next school year will start in both schools and kindergartens on August 26. To compensate for the cut, extra days will be added to the breaks at the start of the New Year, in Hanukkah and Passover.

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar gave final approval to the changes, which were recommended by a public committee he appointed a year ago and which was headed by former treasury director general Shmuel Slavin. The decision does not alter the number of school days or holidays during the school year.

In the non-Jewish communities, the school year will begin on September 1 in deference to Ramadan, which runs through August.

According to the Education Ministry, these changes are meant to create a significant period of continuous study until the fall vacation period [September-October] and to allow study on the subject of the holidays. Between Yom Kippur and Sukkot three days will be added to the vacation linking the two. The vacation will begin on October 7 and end on October 23.

The Hanukkah break will begin a day earlier, on December 21, and Passover break will also begin a day early and start on March 28, 2012.

The Teachers' Association said in response to the decision that "the organization agrees with the Education Ministry's proposal and accepts it. This decision is a result of the joint deliberations in the special committee set up for this purpose."

However, national Parent-Teacher Association chairman Eti Binyamin slammed the decision.

"I think that someone at the Health Ministry has gone mad," Binyamin said. "This is neither a professional nor a responsible decision. We are in favor of cutting the summer holiday but certainly not by six days and certainly not by adding days in the holidays which are unnecessary from the start, like Hanukkah and the holiday before Passover."

"The time has come to reorganize the entire subject of holidays in the school system," Binyamin said. "A committee cannot sit for an entire year and these are the results it produces. We had hoped to see a cancellation of the Hanukah holiday, all the holiday day-afters, when the entire country is at work and only the schools are on vacation, and they should shorten the summer holiday by at least two weeks."

Sigal Tzioni, who chairs the Parents-Teachers Association of Haifa and is deputy of the national forum said, "we welcome every initiative in which the summer holiday format is changed. Shortening the summer holiday will enable uninterrupted study and will allow studying on the holidays and will make it easier for the parents who have a problem with the summer camps. We adopt the decision as it is at this stage, but we expect, as a national parents organization, that we will meet and in full cooperation to form a well thought out framework for the year after the next."

Ofra, a mother of two in Tel Aviv, said that she "was very happy" with the change in the holiday schedule. "I hope that every year they take days off the summer holiday and add them in the fall. The summer holiday is a nightmare. Everything costs more. You are either stuck with the children at home in air conditioning, or you need to come up with activities which cost you money."

Her husband, Ro'i, on the other hand, said that "the summer time for parents is a pain and you need to find solutions and arrangements [for the kids] but to an 11 and 17 year old it seems to me to be very disappointing when they shorten the holiday. If I was a pupil, I would not want this cut, even though I feel for the parents who would have to suffer another week during the summer."