If you want to humble a nation it makes evil sense to target its young boys, plucking the innocents like flowers from their prime. The enormity of the horror, the discovery of the worst, of the dead bodies of Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, brought the nation to its knees Monday night and united the country in a wrenching mixture of grief and anger.
Hebrew, the tongue of the Jewish people, is a language rich with the verbs, nouns and adjectives of sorrow, its poets and prophets having an utterly unfortunate familiarity with the worst humanity, and God, can do. Thus it’s little surprise that Hebrew papers turn to the ancient, freighted vocabulary of anguish to express the miserable moan that issued forth from a bereaved nation Monday night. This they do, while attempting to balance raw emotion with sober reporting and analysis of what happened over the 18 days and how Israel and the Palestinians may react.
“In the noontide of their days,” reads the main headline of Israel Hayom, taking its cue from the prophet Isaiah. The paper devotes its full Page 1 and nearly all its news pages to the terrible affair. Yedioth Ahronoth, which does much the same, runs an A1 headline of “the bitter end,” accompanying a picture of Israelis hugging in front of a flag and a makeshift sign on a cardboard box with a quote from Ezekiel: “And I said unto thee, in thy blood, live.”
The paper’s lead item, a dry tract from Nahum Barnea that dives straight into the deep end of the political-security pool, takes for granted that there was essentially no chance the three would be found alive, instead insisting that officials assumed all along that they were dead and had plenty of time to think of how to respond.
“The prime minister and his ministers hear the voices from the communities where the families live, from party activists, from the street, and feel a need to pay heed to those voices. They fear that if they don’t decide on a decisive, noisy immediate action, those on the Israeli right will start taking revenge on their own.”
In Israel Hayom, Dan Margalit also doesn’t mince words, calling on the cabinet to remember how then-prime minister Golda Meir vengefully responded to the 1972 Munich Games massacre. “This time, we will not slink away from the anger and wrath for those that find in these moments understanding for the other, the enemy that rises up against all of us,” he writes, riffing on the Passover Haggadah with biblical righteousness. “We will not forgive, and let no one speak to us with a calming voice. Do not try to appease us while we are wrathful over the loss of three dear ones whose only crime was going about their studies.”
Haaretz, the paper most likely to find sympathy with the “other,” refrains from getting overly caught up in the emotions of the moment, being the only major outlet to run non-related news on A1, and concentrating on reporting the wider security or diplomatic implications on any moves either side might make.
“Anyone who starts a major operation against Hamas in Gaza must be prepared for a relatively long confrontation that will include intensified attacks on Israel’s home front. Such an operation must have a clearer goal than satisfying the public’s desire for revenge,” the paper’s Amos Harel writes.
Praying and making peace
The paper’s Uri Misgav, meanwhile, gives the hard, cold assessment that “the prayers didn’t help, neither did the rally at Rabin Square or the songs from Rami Kleinstein and Miri Mesika. And even the door to door searches.” Sheer power also won’t help, except to sate our hunger for revenge, he adds. What will change the situation, he says, though, is an agreement with the Palestinians. “Without a diplomatic solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict, there’s no easy way and no chance. The occupation has failed, the occupation is making us fail.”
In righty paper Makor Rishon, though, Ariel Kahane makes the case that what happened to the three has nothing to do with Israel’s actions, but is rather part of a wider trend of violence across the region, stretching from Iraq’s new caliphate to Gaza.
“This is the same wild violence of the lynch in Ramallah, which shocked many Israelis. It’s the same violence of Hamas, which took over Gaza and threw out Fatah leaders. Not that Fatah people are not violent, but Hamas’s brand is worse. It’s also like this in Syria,” he writes. “Everyone is carrying out murderous violence, merciless and horrible, and this is the great historic tragedy of the Middle East.”
Yedioth runs an interview with two of the volunteers who found the bodies, after finally getting the go-ahead to join the search after two weeks of asking the army.
“We tried to think like the kidnappers and plan what we would do if we were in their place,” one of them tells the paper. “We asked the soldiers at the entrance of each area to take off their vests and guns, put them in a pile, and search from ground level.”
In Israel Hayom, Emily Amrousi, a sometimes journalist who happens to be friends with the Shaar family, writes that despite what happened, the tragedy still served to change the nation in indelible ways, for the better:
“Eyal, Naftali and Gil-ad, what you have done to our people. How you taught them to pray. Religious prayer and secular prayer, that contributed to the healing of an injured nation. How you reminded us that we are one people. After who knows how much time of divisiveness, moments of unity are a cherished light.”