The loss of a small child, and the possible loss of the beginning of the school year, both from Gazan terrorist aggression, make up the twin focuses of the Israeli press Monday morning.
While the tragedy of Daniel Tragerman’s death slowly fades from public view into the private and lonesome agony of his family, the possibility that continuing rocket fire could imperil the September 1 start of the school year across southern Israel — and even points closer to the heavily populated center of the country — rears up like an uninvited bull at a wedding.
Israel Hayom reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Education Minister Shai Piron met Sunday and decided that the school year might have to be delayed for kids in unprotected schools within 40 kilometers of Gaza. Piron, who earlier said that the schools were ready to be opened, is scheduled to meet soon in Beersheba with local officials to discuss a course of action, the paper says.
Shai Hajaj, the head of the Merhavim local council in the northern Negev, gives a preview of what the minister is likely to hear, writing in Israel Hayom that as long as there are rockets, there will not be classes. Period.
“For those who aren’t experts in the matter, the Merhavim Regional Council is spread over a huge area of some 580,000 dunams [224 square miles] and the children are supposed to travel in the mornings and afternoons for some 40 kilometers on roads that are bombarded by rockets and mortars. If that’s not enough, at the end they get to schools that aren’t protected,” he writes.
Yedioth Ahronoth gives a rundown of the level of protection in schools for some 22 cities, towns and local councils across the country, also seeking out information on what they plan to do should rocket fire continue. In Jerusalem, for instance, some 200,000 out of 250,000 students have access to shelter, while the rest are “as sheltered as can be.” “Should the situation continue, we will do a situation assessment to decide on practices and rules,” a city spokesperson tells the paper.
Haaretz reports that even if the schools in the south did open, there would be nobody to attend them, as many towns near the Gaza border have emptied of residents as the fighting has shown little likelihood of stopping. The paper notes that some 400 families are now being evacuated with the help of the Defense Ministry, after they requested assistance, though both sides are loath to call a spade a spade. “Don’t call this an evacuation,” one local official tells the paper. “This isn’t an evacuation; this is an organized stay outside the area.”
Semantics aside, Israel Harel, one of Haaretz’s handful of “court right-wingers,” can now add armchair Rambo to his resume after penning a spittin’ mad column about those wusses who can’t take a few hundred mortars and rockets on their heads for a few weeks.
“It’s a shame the media says so little about communities and their residents, like Kibbutz Alumim, who accept with courage and steadfastness the difficulties they are experiencing. This is consistent with the ethos of the historic settlement [of Israel] movement, and is encouraging residents of locales not under pressure. Heartbreaking stories of those leaving, with unconcealed sympathy, by the media, have given — to the delight of the enemy — a legitimacy not worthy of their abandonment.”
There are likely many who find it difficult to agree with Harel following the death of Tragerman from a mortar strike on Friday, as his family prepared to leave a kibbutz near the Gaza border for safer ground. Pictures from the funeral for the 4-year-old early Sunday are splayed across all three front pages of the major dailies.
The breadth of the tragedy is somewhat borne out in Yedioth’s sad headline: “Daniel was buried with a box of crayons and in his Spider-Man costume.”
The paper is all out of columns from writers waxing heartbroken in the wake of the tragedy, but runs eulogies from Daniel’s mother and President Reuven Rivlin, who had hosted Daniel just two weeks earlier.
“We always said that you would be the youngest leader in the world to bring peace,” the paper quotes from his mother’s eulogy. “If not in your life, then in your death.”
Rivlin, meanwhile, points out that the tragedy of Tragerman is the tragedy of a nation of 4-year-olds forced to grow up too fast. “I thought about… a child who is too young to cross the street by himself because it’s dangerous, but is old enough to know what a ‘Code Red’ rocket siren is because it’s also dangerous. A child who still mixes up letters and numbers, but is old enough to know the difference between [acronyms for] safe rooms and mortars, between an interception and a hit, between the chirping of a bird and the whistle of a shell,” the president said.
While the south is getting pounded, the north got a taste of rocket fire Sunday morning with five missiles sent over from Syria. Israel Hayom reports, though, that life is still going swimmingly in the placid Golan Heights. “Life is continuing as normal and the guests in our guesthouse didn’t get excited by the rockets and continued their vacation as if nothing happened,” somebody on some kibbutz in the Golan is quoted telling the paper (details are seemingly not their strong suit). “No new instructions were given and the shelters did not open up, in the hope that that these incidents won’t recur.”