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50,000 CIVIL SERVANTS IN ISRAEL STRIKE FOR A 35% PAY INCREASE

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More than 50,000 civil servants went on strike Wednesday, leaving Israelis unable to get marriage licenses or divorce decrees, register births or open businesses - or even watch "Sein-feld."

The silver lining was that bankruptcies and income tax foreclosures were held off, too.Four unions struck, demanding 35 percent wage increases spread over three to four years and minimum monthly salaries of 2,000 shekels, or $715, said Uri Tzachor, spokesman for the Histadrut National Trade Federation.

The unions set no time limit on the strike, which shut down ports, some hospital services, the income tax department, the National Insurance Institute, educational television and all ministries except the defense ministry.

The walkout followed months of negotiations with Finance Minister Avraham Shohat.

Israel's unemployment rate, aggravated by an influx of 400,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union, stands at 11 percent.

The pressure on Shohat to meet the unions' demands rose in May after he settled a teachers' walkout on similar terms. Strikes are a fixture of Israel's troubled economy, and doctors and nurses also walked off the job this year.

The Cabinet, meeting in emergency session Wednesday, authorized measures to order up to 15 percent of striking workers back to jobs deemed vital to national security and the public welfare, Israel radio said.