The recent unexpected death of Arik Einstein shocked and saddened Israelis, most of whom considered him the musical soundtrack to the state. If Einstein was the soundtrack, then Sefi Rivlin was the laugh track. Rivlin died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer.
Yedioth Ahronoth gives the most coverage to the passing of the comedian, 66, including a heartbreaking handwritten note that Rivlin gave the paper after he lost his ability to speak, “I will not beat cancer — but I am learning to live with it.” The paper credits Rivlin with “making a generation of Israelis laugh” and recounts his career in seminal Israeli comedy shows “Nikui Rosh” and “Fistuk’s house.”
Comedienne and actress Tzipi Shavit, who worked extensively with Rivlin, praises him as “comedian, clown, actor, and genius who brought to my life so much laughter and success.” She laments, “I wish I just had one more moment on the stage with him.”
Rivlin was not only a comedian but also a political supporter of the Likud party, and it is both these aspects that MK Ofir Akunis (Likud) praises in an op-ed in Israel Hayom. “Before us was a rare comedian on the great Zionist threshold. Loved the land of Israel, loved the people of Israel,” writes Akunis. He goes on to praise Rivlin for having the courage to say, “I am on the right, I’m a nationalist and my political home is the Likud.”
Continuing to talk about peace
Haaretz and Maariv also memorialize Rivlin, but their top stories deal with the Palestinians. Haaretz reports that John Kerry is due back in Israel on Wednesday night and while he’s here the Americans will present a security plan for how Israel would deal with a Palestinian state. Peace talks may be high on Kerry’s list of things to discuss, but according to the paper, it seems that Netanyahu is still smarting from the Iran deal and wants to discuss that, rather than a future Palestinian state.
That future Palestinian state may now be a little more economically developed, according Maariv’s top story, which reports that Israel is donating 20,000 dunams of land to a Palestinian economic zone. The zone will focus on developing commercial and agricultural ventures and will be financed by the US Agency of International Development (USAID). The area will be in Area C, which as designated by the Oslo Accords is under Israeli security and civilian control, but the paper reports that Israel wants to show it is willing to work with the Palestinian Authority.
With Kerry coming back to the area and the focus slowly shifting away from Iran and back to negotiations, the European Union is also weighing in on the peace talks with what Israel Hayom calls “The European threat” of halting aid to the Palestinian Authority, worth about €300 million ($407 million). The paper notes that the loss of the funding could cause the collapse of the PA. The EU would punish Israel too if the talks fail, promising to label goods that come from the settlements.
Also weighing in on peace talks is former Bank of Israel governor Stanley Fischer, who said that Israel is not portrayed as a country that seriously wants peace. Haaretz reports that Fischer made the comments at an NYU’s School of Law, and Fischer went on to say, “Israel, it seems to me, to be divided between those who want to settle the West Bank and those who seek peace.”
But is it good for the fish?
The recent announcement that an American naval ship will be fitted to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons may not be great news for Mediterranean fish. Maariv reports that Israeli scientist Professor Moshe Kol of the School of Organic Chemistry at Tel Aviv University worries that the broken-down chemicals from the weapons will be disposed of in the sea. Kol worries that all the chemicals will be dumped in one concentrated area (paradoxically enough, to prevent widespread environmental damage) and that concentration of chemicals could actually kill the area’s wildlife.
Back on land, Yedioth reports that Israeli schoolchildren are not doing well compared to their international peers. Test results compared to schools in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) show that Israeli kids come in below average in math, reading, and science. Israelis come in 40th place in math and science, and the “people of the book” took 33rd place in reading.
Israel Hayom also takes a look at the tests and shows that despite the below-average showing, Israel improved slightly since the last test (in 2009 Israel got 41st position in math and science, 36th in reading). Over the last decade however, Israel hasn’t improved at all and actually dropped a few spots.
Over in the opinion pages of Maariv, Michal Aharoni rejects Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s attempt to find other allies as foolish. “The best allies we have is the American people,” she writes. She outright rejects any movement closer to Russia, whose leader is “corrupt, violent, and doesn’t believe in democracy.” And any move away from the US she characterizes as fantasy that will never happen. “So instead of dreaming of a reunion with the world’s second superpower or an exciting and cultured evening with Europeans, it is time to recognize reality,” she writes, and that reality is America as Israel’s true ally.