There is nothing like opening a newspaper to get you over the new year euphoria and plant you firmly back in reality. The first headlines of 5773 indicate to readers that though a new year has begun, old troubles inevitably persist.
The front pages of all the Hebrew newspapers this morning feature the face of Haim Hefer, an Israeli cultural icon who passed away on Tuesday. Hefer, a prolific songwriter, was for many the voice of the Palmach generation. Born in 1925 and immigrating to Mandate-era Palestine at the age of 11, he was here to witness the birth of the nation and everything that has happened to it since. He wrote songs that made up the Israeli soundtrack and was an astute commentator on cultural, political and ethical matters. Today’s papers are all full of tributes by fellow artists and state leaders, with both Yedioth Ahronoth and Maariv electing to feature a selection of his most famous and well-loved songs throughout their editions.
The second story to make all the front pages this morning reports on the alleged murder of a woman by her husband. While the killing itself was gruesome in its details — the 65-year-old Herzliya man allegedly stabbed his younger wife to death in their home, with their 4-year-old daughter present — what makes it a Page 1 story is the fact that 21 years ago the same man was suspected of killing his first wife in a similar fashion. Back then, charges were dropped because he was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial and was sent to a psychiatric institution. But he was released seven years ago only to remarry and, apparently, to kill again. In both instances, the man called the police to notify them that he had killed his wife.
Both Israel Hayom and Maariv lead today with reports of Iran admitting to having suffered damage to the underground uranium enrichment site in Fordo last month as a result of explosions of their electricity cables, and accusing members of the IAEA of sabotage. Maariv, on Page 6, provides readers with a list of “accidents” that have plagued Iran’s nuclear program in recent years, all serving to delay its quest for the A-bomb.
Republican US presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s leaked statements from a private May fundraiser in Florida, in which he badmouthed nearly half the US population and accused the Palestinians of wanting Israel’s destruction, also receive prominent coverage in the news this morning. The Israeli papers focus most on his Mideast comments, in which he talked about his lack of faith in the Israel-Palestinian peace process and likened the conflict to a football to be kicked down the field in hopes that something would happen.
For those Israelis who complain that because of the many holidays, their children don’t learn anything in the first weeks of the school year, Haaretz‘s front page story will add insult to injury. According to the report, seven busloads of children spent one of their first days back in school participating as the audience in a reality television song competition. The kids, along with their teachers, spent the day at a television studio instead of school and arrived in buses paid for by the production company. The Ministry of Education says it is looking into the incident.
On Page 15, Israel Hayom presents readers with the tally of Rosh Hashanah vacation casualties. According to the report, the holiday ended with one 10-year-old boy falling from his grandparents’ fourth-floor window and suffering severe injuries, one 16-year-old Hadera youth falling from an electric pole while retrieving a ball, and an infant in Jerusalem nearly choking to death before being saved by paramedics.
Reasons for optimism
In its opinion page, Maariv reprints a column penned by deceased poet Haim Hefer last year in honor of Israel’s 63rd birthday. In it Hefer outlines all the negative trends he saw in the country, from political corruption to growing social gaps, but concluded with a note of optimism.
“I am optimistic about our public. True, its life here is comfortable and people won’t go to the streets like they do in Syria, Egypt and Tunisia, but here too the public will rise against corrupt leaders. It in unavoidable. It will happen here as well.”
“Don’t waste your despair, my friends; we will need it,” Hefer quotes a friend. “With everything I have experienced here, things can only get better.”