The juxtaposition of Israel’s national day of mourning and its party-hard Independence Day weighs heavily over the press Monday, with the three major dailies wrestling, as the rest of the country does, with how to remember those who died in defense of the state while celebrating the 66th birthday of Israel immediately after.
Because there is no newspaper on Independence Day, the papers are forced to pack both emotional events into one edition, driving home the proximity of the national days.
Yedioth’s front page has the uplifting “In their deaths, a commandment to live,” while Israel Hayom goes with the more straightforward “The pain and the joy.”
Haaretz, meanwhile, forgoes unabashed patriotic declarations by trying to shoehorn some critical journalism into its coverage, accompanying a story about official speeches at the memorial ceremony Sunday night with enterprise reporting on how a number of semi-official organizations that should have been shuttered long ago continue to drain state funds.
On the remembrance side of things, Israel Hayom devotes more than 10 pages to personal stories of loss and national expressions of mourning through pictures and text. Writing about his son, who died 17 years ago when two military helicopters collided in northern Israel, Eli Ben Shem writes that time has not healed his wounds, as it should not.
“Bereaved parents are constantly fighting not to forget. The fear that we will wake up one morning and God forbid forget our son, makes us more alert and exacting,” he writes in poetic language. “We are swinging all the time between blurred memories. Sometimes they linger like the sweet taste of a childhood memory that floods a grown kid, which grew each and every one of us.”
Many English-speakers who enter the IDF know the name Benji Hillman, whose parents recently opened a Lone Soldier center in memory of their son, killed in the 2006 Second Lebanon War. Haaretz devotes an article to the center and the Hillman family’s efforts to build a home for 48 lone soldiers, about half of whom are immigrants (the other half are Israelis who have lost touch with their families or whose families are in dire financial straits.)
“At Benji’s Home, the care is warmer and more personal and comes with close help for those who are about to be discharged and are trying to find their way in civilian life, especially when talking about immigrants who hardly know Israel,” the paper’s Amos Harel writes.
Yedioth, meanwhile, spends less time on the Memorial Day part of the paper, skipping after a couple of pages to Independence Day celebrations. In a bit of a gimmick, MK and presidential candidate Rubi Rivlin writes a column in the paper in the form of a letter to his younger self, at times funny and sappy.
“You say that when you were a kid, everyone around you was idealistic and went into the streets and squares with sparkling eyes, one time to sob and one time to celebrate. If you feared this feeling would diminish, you would be excited to see the new awakening of the nation in Israel, the shine that has returned to our eyes. It’s true we still have a lot to fix , but today I feel assured that there is who to fix it.”
Haaretz, never one to wave the blue and white uncritically, marks Independence Day with a look at the connections between politicians, government offices, semi-official institutions, and American machers (In particular Sheldon Adelson), and how many of those established long ago (like 66 years ago) became obsolete. A chart resembling a bowl of spaghetti goes to show just how confusing all these links are and how ingrained they are in the country’s power structure.
“The secret to the survival of organizations like the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish National Fund, Keren Hayesod, the Jewish Agency and more is the people at their heads: politicians of the type that other politicians from whatever party love to work with; people that know how to pass a budget quickly and quietly, to solve a mayor or deputy minister’s problem, to make connections between a Jewish donor and a good cause and to get a former Knesset member a job,” the paper’s Anshel Pfeffer writes.
‘A holiday gift’
Non-holiday news also makes the papers, though not much of it. The cabinet decision to buy a plane for the prime minister and build a new residence, complete with office, is called a “holiday present for [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu,” by Yedioth, which notes that Netanyahu put the kibosh on the same plan, put forward by his predecessor Ehud Olmert, upon taking office in 2009.
In Israel Hayom, the death of a toddler left in a car on Sunday, the hottest day of 2014 so far, gets a full page of coverage, complete with a pleading compendium of tips for parents on how not to become victim to the tragedy, even if they refuse to use phone applications and car alarm systems as a safeguard.
“The responsibility is still on the driver, whether he is a parent or just taking them to school, and also on the teachers who come along,” the paper writes. “The Beterem organization warns about leaving a kid, whether a toddler or a baby, in a closed car and emphasize not to do it even for a minute.”