Loss for words
Hebrew media review

Loss for words

The press begins process of marking Memorial Day; ahead of kidney transplant, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer says he's physically fit

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

A  woman sits next to the grave of fallen soldier from the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem (Michal Fattal/Flash90)
A woman sits next to the grave of fallen soldier from the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem (Michal Fattal/Flash90)

Sunday’s dailies kick off coverage of Memorial Day, which begins Sunday night at dusk. Honoring those slain in service of the state takes top billing in the papers, which dedicate their top stories to the 23,169 servicemen and servicewomen who lost their lives since 1948.

Israel Hayom leads with its commemoration of the fallen, wallpapering the first five pages of the paper with generic images of soldiers saluting at graves, symbolic candles and instructions on the when and where of national events marking the day. In its typical fashion, the paper leads off with remarks from government officials, quoting a letter sent by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to grieving families ahead of the day of national mourning.

“The siren which will split the air this evening will be a sign of its transformation from personal grief, which is so agonizing, to the public domain,” he wrote. “It would appear as if there is no Israeli citizen who doesn’t experience the loss, whether it’s personal or if it’s through knowing friends who fell. Soldiers who sacrificed the most dear will remain young forever and left behind them a void which will never be filled.”

Yedioth Ahronoth humanizes the day of national mourning a bit more than Israel Hayom, and opens with six brief stories of loss before leading into the particulars of Sunday night and Monday’s memorials. Each of the stories are told in letters to those who died in Israel’s various wars by those whose lives they saved.

One is by a veteran of the Six Day War to the combat medic who saved his life and sacrificed his own in the battle of Jerusalem. “This year, too, on Memorial Day, I’ll rise to stand by your grave,” Yosef Haguel writes. “Since you saved my life, I’ve not missed a single Memorial Day by your grave.”

Tsofer Kariv writes to his friend who pulled him away from a burning tank during the Yom Kippur War. “There was no one remaining for me to thank,” Kariv writes to Benny. “After the war I had two more children. I was also at the wedding of your two sons, something you didn’t have the honor to do.”

Haaretz publishes a piece on teaching about Memorial Day in kindergartens in Israel with visits from IDF combat soldiers. The soldiers speak to the children, and the children prepare letters and gift baskets for the soldiers.

The paper notes that unlike with Holocaust Remembrance Day, when many parents around the country protested the Education Ministry’s beginning of Holocaust education in kindergartens, the manner in which Memorial Day is taught to young children has received no such protest. The invitation of soldiers to kindergartens is the initiative of local councils or individual teachers, and the Education Ministry refused to make an official comment on the issue.

Also in Sunday’s papers, Israel Hayom reports on the Israel Press Council’s opposition to a proposed law to ban the distribution of free newspapers. According to Israel Hayom, a free newspaper, former judge and Israel Press Council head Dalia Dorner has repeatedly voiced opposition to the proposal which would likely result in the shutdown of Israel Hayom.

Meanwhile, Arab leaders in Israel called on the government to crack down on the recent surge of hate crimes targeting Arabs in Israel, Haaretz reports. Representatives of Arab local councils called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to intervene personally against the spate of “price tag” attacks against Arabs in northern Israeli towns. They expressed concern that if the radical right-wing attacks against Arabs are not put in check, they will escalate to more serious violence.

“Our concern is that next time, if a citizen or a group of youths lays their hands on one of these criminals, the incident won’t end with slogans or spray paint, but with much more serious things,” Sakhnin mayor Mazem Ghanem said.

The protest by Arab politicians came after at least three “price tag” attacks took place around Israel and the West Bank in recent days.

Yedioth Ahronoth also runs an interview with presidential candidate and long-time Labor Party fixture Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who is expected to undergo a kidney transplant in the coming week. Ben-Eliezer, 78, tells the paper that he is “in an excellent state of health” despite having several dialysis treatments each week.

“I will decide when the [kidney] operation will happen. No one is chasing after me,” he said. “I am in the process of choosing a donor. There are a few candidates who need to pass inspection, and then I’ll know.” He says he is not concerned about the upcoming operation: “After all I am undergoing a kidney transplant, not a brain transplant.”

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