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Teachers' Association in Israel

TEACHERS' ASSOCIATION IN ISRAEL

TEACHERS' ASSOCIATION IN ISRAEL , organization founded in 1903 at a meeting of teachers in Zikhron Ya'akov, convened by Menaḥem *Ussishkin, who was then visiting Ereẓ Israel. It was attended by 59 of the approximately 100 teachers in the country. The aims of the association were declared to be:

(a) Improvement of educational facilities in Ereẓ Israel and standardization of the schools;

(b) Revival of the Hebrew language and the instilling of a national Jewish spirit into schools;

(c) Improvement of teachers' conditions.

During the first decade of its existence, the Teachers' Association contributed greatly toward the foundation of the Hebrew school system. It decided in favor of using the Sephardi pronunciation of Hebrew, and formed a committee of linguists whose task was to establish the new Hebrew terminology for the teaching of various academic subjects. The association also organized training courses for unqualified teachers, determined a syllabus for eight-grade elementary schools, devised teachers' qualifying examinations, and published textbooks and teaching manuals. Its organ, Ha-Ḥinnukh ("Education"), founded in 1910, reached a circulation of 18,000 (1968).

The outstanding achievement of the Teachers' Association was the establishment of Hebrew as the language of instruction in the schools of Ereẓ Israel. The first attempt to teach in Hebrew was made by Eliezer *Ben-Yehuda in 1889, and teachers in the early settlements followed his example. However, urban schools, maintained by the *Hilfsverein der deutschen Juden and the *Alliance Israélite Universelle, refused to use Hebrew for instruction. When the central committee of the Teachers' Association learned that the Board of Governors of the Haifa *Technion, controlled by the Hilfsverein, had decided that the language of instruction in the new institution would be German, they declared a boycott of Hilfs verein institutions in Ereẓ Israel (1914). The association proceeded to assist in establishing Hebrew schools which formed the nucleus of a national school system.

During the 1920s the association began campaigning for better working conditions for teachers. At the time, the Jewish community in Palestine had gained a large measure of autonomy under the British Mandate; but, as a result of the financial difficulties of the Zionist Organization, which was responsible for Hebrew education, and the lack of material support from the Mandatory authorities, teachers' salaries were paid belatedly. The Teachers' Association called its first strike in 1925, in order to ensure prompt payment of salaries. When the State of Israel was established in 1948, kindergartens and elementary schools became state-controlled, and their teachers became state employees. Nevertheless, the struggle for an improvement in working conditions continued for many years, and only in the second decade after the establishment of the state was there a significant improvement in conditions. Among the important achievements of the association are the linking of teachers' salaries to those of other university graduates in Israel, the reduction of overcrowding in classes, compensation for teachers on extension courses, and the application of the Pensions Law to teachers.

In the 1930s the association set up branches all over Israel, and specialized affiliated bodies were established (organizations of kindergarten teachers, secondary school teachers, headmasters, etc.). In 1951 Arab teachers joined the association, and a special department was opened for them. The issue of whether the association should join the Histadrut was debated for 27 years. However, in 1950 a majority decided in favor of joining the Histadrut, provided the association retained a large measure of autonomy.

When education became state-controlled, the association increased its pedagogic activities. It began by organizing its own in-service training for kindergarten and other teachers; in 1957 a joint committee was formed by the Teachers' Association and the Ministry of Education to plan teachers' extension courses, and their administration and inspection. In 1959 the association set up a central archive documenting the history of Hebrew education and the Teachers' Association. Hed ha-Ḥinnukh ("Education Echo"), first published by the association in 1927, became a weekly publication in 1949. In 1967 it had a circulation of 22,000. A quarterly on kindergarten education, Hed ha-Gan ("Kindergarten Echo"), was also published. The association's publishing house, Oẓar ha-Moreh, began activities in 1950, and has since published numerous teachers' aids, teaching manuals, anthologies and studies in psychology and education.

In 1951 the association established contacts with international teachers' associations, and, in 1961, it was host to the Conference of the Federation of Teachers' Associations.

In 1968 it had a membership of approximately 20,000 elementary-school teachers, 3,000 kindergarten teachers, 3,000 secondary-school teachers, 700 instructors at teachers' training colleges, and 500 school inspectors. It also had 2,000 Arab members. In 2005 it had 100,000 members, making it the largest trade union in Israel. In 1990 the Association established the Association of Teachers for the Advancement of Teaching and Education. Its activities include study weekends, workshops, conventions, educational tours in Israel and overseas, theater evenings, lectures, the creation of a code of ethics, surveys, and research; it had 65,000 members.

bibliography:

Sh. Levin, Teachers Union in Israel (1961), publ. by itu; Jubilee Book of the Teachers' Association in Israel, 19031953 (Heb., 1956); H. Shifroni, Histadrut ha-Morim (1954), publ. by itu. website: www.itu.org.il.

[Shalom Levin]

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