Foreign Ministry strike threatens Holocaust trips

Foreign Ministry strike threatens Holocaust trips

2,000 high school students may not make educational visit to Poland because of delayed passports for security personnel

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative photo of Israeli students on trip to Poland in 2011 (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of Israeli students on trip to Poland in 2011 (photo credit: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

The ongoing strike at the Foreign Ministry could prevent thousands of high school students from heading to Poland on educational trips about the Holocaust, because the ministry won’t issue their security guards with diplomatic passports.

A total of 2,000 students are scheduled to leave for Poland to participate in some 20 delegations that will visit Holocaust sites. The trips are scheduled to leave over the next two weeks, but the visits will be cancelled if they cannot be provided with security personnel. Should the missions be aborted, the Education Ministry — the body that organizes the missions for 11th- and 12th-graders — will not be able to refund parents the average of NIS 6,000 ($1,680) that they paid for each participating pupil, Ynet reported on Monday.

The Foreign Ministry Workers’ Union has gradually stepped up sanctions over the last four months, in a protest over wage cuts as well as reductions in the compensation packages offered to partners and spouses of those sent overseas.

According to the report, on Sunday the Jerusalem District Labor Court rejected a request from the Education Ministry to force the union to issue the necessary passports. The chairman of the Association of High School Principals, Aryeh Loker, told Ynet that if the trips are cancelled, the high schools will sue the workers’ union for damages.

“It is not right that we should have to bear such heavy financial losses because of these sanctions,” he said.

Among those also caught in the deadlock is Israel’s new ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer, who will not receive his diplomatic passport or any other paperwork. Requests to US authorities for special ambassadorial permits have not been made and Dermer has not received the usual preparation courses required before taking up his new position, the daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported earlier this month. He has also not been able to meet with staff from the North American offices who are to prepare him for the job.

As a result, Dermer will likely be forced to delay his arrival in Washington beyond the scheduled target date for next month, Yedioth said.

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