Proving that “if it bleeds it leads,” Pope Francis’s high-profile visit to Israel on Sunday is overshadowed in Monday’s Hebrew papers by extensive coverage of the Brussels Jewish Museum murder, as new details emerge.
While the papers concede that the ongoing Belgian investigation of the deadly shooting spree and the video footage released to the public on Sunday yield more questions than answers, they nonetheless dedicate much of their coverage to the ever-thickening plot.
Yedioth Ahronoth calls the Belgian police “helpless” and writes that the new information merely “sharpens the mystery.”
The paper mentions that Miriam Riva, one of the Israeli victims, is a former employee of the Prime Minister’s Office, but says that a connection between the murder to her position has yet to be determined. The report also emphasizes that the entire incident took place within 82 seconds.
Both Yedioth and Israel Hayom feature matter-of-fact op-eds that separately state that it was merely “a matter of time” before such an attack would be perpetrated at a Jewish site abroad.
Yedioth’s Noah Klieger writes: “It was only a matter of time. The writing – or to be more specific the writings – were on the wall for years. And not just in Europe. I would even venture to say that it’s surprising that up until now there were only a few killing sprees against Jews or Jewish institutions.”
In Israel Hayom, Claude Kandiyoti, reporting from Brussels, provides a personal account of the Jewish community’s response to the attack, with the phrase “only a matter of time” appearing in the headline as well.
“Later [after the attack], a group of community volunteers gathered to manage the crisis and make decisions: Should communal life continue as usual? Should schools be opened? We left with a unified message: ‘We, the Jews of Belgium, are citizens of the state. An attack on us is an attack on the state and it must be treated assuch. We cannot be deterred.’ In light of that, the next day we opened the schools and the Jewish institutions. Life must go on. But this incident reminded us that Europe is not our place, and that its minorities are still under threat,” he writes.
Both papers provide more information about the Riva couple who were slain in the attack. All the papers quote Gosia Porat, a Belgian national and friend of the couple, who had tried to persuade them not to go, and warned of rampant anti-Semitism in her native country. “When they told me they were going to Brussels, I asked them what they have to do there. They laughed and said they want the Belgian chocolate.”
Yedioth quotes a Brussels-based gallery owner who describes the gruesome scene tearfully. “I closed the eyes of the woman who lay dead while reciting ‘Shema Israel,’” he said.
Only Haaretz leads with the papal visit, providing a blow-by-blow account of the pope’s itinerary on Sunday, and his upcoming stops on Monday.
In an op-ed for the paper titled “A Palestinian Victory,”Jack Khoury cites the pope’s decision to pray near the security barrier, and fly from Bethlehem to Ben Gurion Airport, as testament to his recognition and support of the Palestinian cause.
“The Palestinian Authority can place a large check mark next to the summary of Pope Francis’s visit yesterday in Bethlehem. The wide-ranging international coverage that accompanied the visit offered a great opportunity for PA spokesmen to get their message across precisely now, at the moment of crisis in the diplomatic process. But more than that, there is no doubt that the pope offered a tailwind to the Palestinians to their public relations campaign they’ve been advancing in past months.”
Yedioth describes the pope’s modest accommodations at the residence of the Vatican ambassador in Abu Tor in East Jerusalem, a small room with a nondescript bed and desk. The paper also points an accusatory finger at the 11 ministers who were absent from the welcome ceremony at Ben Gurion airport, including: Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman who is on vacation abroad, Finance Minister Yair Lapid who said he was busy, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett who insisted he would greet the pope along with the chief rabbis on Monday, and Education Minister Shai Piron who was attending a conference.
The papers also declare the victory of chocolate tycoon Petro Poroshenko, based on exit polls, in the Ukrainian elections. Yedioth playfully calls it “A chocolate-flavored victory” in its headline, while Haaretz dubs him the “pro-West billionaire.” Haaretz calls the 60 percent turnout rate “a significant achievement” in light of the 20% living under Russian or pro-Russian control who were opposed to the elections.