Some 2,310,000 children and 194,000 teaching instructors returned to school Sunday morning as Israel kicked off the start of a new school year.
Of the more than 2.3 million students, 167,000 were first graders arriving at elementary school for the first time, according to Education Ministry figures, while another 131,000 pupils began their final year of high school.
The Education Ministry said the theme of this school year will be safeguarding both “unity” and “uniqueness” in Israeli society.
“The state education system is home to all Israeli students. I am the education minister of 2.3 million students of all varieties: Jews, Arabs, Druze, Circassians, religious, secular, ultra-Orthodox — they’re all my children,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) said in a statement.
He said this year’s theme was chosen in light of “increasing polarization” in Israeli society, which he said could be addressed through education. He did not address what he believed to be the cause of that polarization.
Speaking Saturday evening at the ministry’s headquarters ahead of the start of the new school year, Bennett said he expected it to be the “smoothest opening” of the academic year since he became education minister in 2015.
Still, some 80,000 toddlers stayed at home and missed the first day of the school year due to a strike by staff at state-run daycare centers over pay.
A number of more localized strikes were also expected at a number of schools Sunday over various issues, according to the Ynet news site.