Nearly two million Israeli children headed back to school Sunday morning amid threats of a teachers' strike and ongoing rocket attacks from Palestinian-controlled Gaza.
In order to ensure the opening day of studies in the southern town of Sderot was not disrupted by Palestinian rocket fire, The Jerusalem Post reported that an Israeli army helicopter gunship was dispatched to hover over the Gaza town from which most rocket attacks are launched.
The army also increased other monitoring activities so as to be able to respond immediately to any threat of an impending attack.
In a further effort to provide a sense of security to students and their parents, Israeli soldiers were sent to Sderot schools to hold a three-day series of instructional seminars on what to do in the event of a rocket attack.
Parents in Sderot and surrounding communities had threatened to not send their kids to school until the government complied with a Supreme Court order to fortify the schoolhouses against rocket attacks. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has so far refused to comply with the order, insisting that Sderot has all the fortifications it needs.
In other parts of the country, teachers were ordered by a labor court to show up the first day of school, but were told they could strike several days later if their salary and work condition demands are still not addressed by the government.
The teachers are protesting the fact that they salaries have not increased since 1996, and that the Education Ministry has further shortened classroom hours in recent years, making it increasingly difficult to complete a full curriculum.