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Northern exposure

As polio spreads north, tens of thousands of children vaccinated every day in attempt to fight virus; US slams Erdogan's 'offensive' comments

Aaron Kalman is a former writer and breaking news editor for the Times of Israel

A child is inoculated with the oral polio vaccine at a children's health clinic in Jerusalem (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A child is inoculated with the oral polio vaccine at a children's health clinic in Jerusalem (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Wednesday’s Hebrew dailies focus on the finding of polio virus samples across the country and the vaccination of children in an attempt to stop the disease from spreading even further. Comments by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the reactions to them also take up much of the inside pages.

For the first time since samples of polio were found in Israel, the virus was discovered north of Tel Aviv, Maariv reports on its front page. The sample was found in a sewage treatment plant at Baka al-Garbiya, near the coastal city of Hadera.

According to the report, Health Ministry officials said the finding of the virus in the north “emphasized the need to inoculate all the country’s children.” On Tuesday some 48,000 children were given the vaccination, bringing the total of newly inoculated children across the country to over 180,000.

The ministry also decided that children with a weakened immune system will not attend school at the start of the year. The officials fear placing those kids — a few hundred in total — in close proximity to their classmates, who are now carrying the virus, could be dangerous. Rather, Health Minister Yael German said a special Internet-based program would be used so that the children wouldn’t fall behind while their health was being safeguarded.

An official US statement condemning Turkish accusations that Israel was behind the recent Egyptian regime overthrow leads Haaretz‘s front page, as the daily reports on the latest developments from the country’s southern neighbor.

The report quotes a White House spokesperson who called the Erdogan comments “offensive, unfounded and wrong.” Erdogan’s accusations were based on a comment made by French-Jewish intellectual Bernard Henri Levi, who participated in a 2011 panel alongside then-opposition leader Tzipi Livni. Erdogan cited Levi as saying at the time that “the Muslim Brotherhood will not be in power even if they win the elections. Because democracy is not the ballot box.”

The daily also tells readers about Tuesday’s arrest of Mohammed Badie, the leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, noting the move could push the Islamist groups supporting ousted president Mohammed Morsi toward the use of even more drastic measures.

In his Israel Hayom column, Dan Margalit slams Erdogan’s statement, saying it was the kind used by “old fashioned anti-Semites.” He notes that the Turkish prime minister knows the ouster of an Islamist regime in favor of a military-backed secular one could spread like wildfire and threaten him, but nevertheless asks why Erdogan would use the 2011 words of a left-wing Jewish intellectual — one the writer calls “a Zionist hater if not a hater of Zion” — as evidence that the State of Israel was connected with the military coup. The veteran columnist speculates that Erdogan doesn’t really believe his own allegation, but if he does, “proof will have been found that he’s lost all connection to reality.”

One year after he forgot 4-year-old Chaim Boymel in a car and caused his death, Nachman Shtizer, the driver of the car, will name his newborn son after the boy — with the approval of the Boymel family, Yedioth Ahronoth reports in a moving story featured on its front page.

The article reminds readers that Nachman Shtizer was a young teacher who also drove students to and from the ultra-Orthodox school were he taught, when he accidentally locked the young boy in his car last summer. He visited the bereaved family shortly after the incident, and they accepted his apology. Shtizer’s trial — in which he’s accused of causing death by negligence — is scheduled to start soon.

According to the article, last week Shtizer’s first son was born, and he’s requested that Chaim’s grandfather be the baby’s godfather. He’s also asked his rabbi whether it would be problematic to name the newborn after Chaim — a Hebrew word meaning life.

Israel Leichter, Chaim’s grandfather, told the daily he planned on attending the circumcision ceremony, where the baby would be named. Declaring his belief that everything that happens is God’s will, the grandfather said that Shtizer “received a devastating blow from the incident. He didn’t do it on purpose, and obviously didn’t want it to happen. I was very happy to hear he’d been given a son.”

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