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Hebrew media review

Sunny side up

Papers contrast the disappearance of the sun with a bright outlook celebrating excelling schools (though they still mind the gaps) and increased freedom for Gazans

People watch the start of the solar eclipse and raise their hands in prayer in an eclipse viewing event led by Native American elders, at Big Summit Prairie ranch in Oregon's Ochoco National Forest near the city of Mitchell on August 21, 2017. (Robyn Beck/AFP)
People watch the start of the solar eclipse and raise their hands in prayer in an eclipse viewing event led by Native American elders, at Big Summit Prairie ranch in Oregon's Ochoco National Forest near the city of Mitchell on August 21, 2017. (Robyn Beck/AFP)

The Hebrew word for solar eclipse, likui hama, translates literally to defect in the sun, likui being the word for shortcoming. It’s interesting then that Hebrew newspapers, which usually fill their pages with lacunae of various sorts, seem to focus on somewhat good news, which is about as rare as a total solar eclipse.

While front pages lead off with pictures of the blotted orb in the sky, stories manage to make up for the missing sunshine, from Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom reporting on which schools did the best in matriculation exams to Haaretz writing that Sudan wants to consider forging ties with Israel and that Gazans will get a bit of breathing room with the opening of the Rafah crossing into Egypt on a more permanent basis.

The broadsheet’s Amira Hass reports that the border point will open sometime next month, after the last three years have seen it open for less than 100 days total, though she notes that the amount of freedom this will provide Gazans might not be anything to celebrate yet.

“The opening of Rafah to regular travel is an essential condition for easing the situation of residents of the Strip, but won’t return full freedom of movement to them. Travelers to Egypt will still have to provide a reason for entry (studies, medical treatment, vocational training or family visits) or provide a permit for travel to a third country,” she writes. “The trip through northern Sinai is a deterrent to many would-be travelers because of the frightening presence of armed groups in the area. And even if the crossing reopens, most Gazans are not allowed to travel to the West Bank, where they have natural and direct institutional, social, familial and economic connections.”

While Americans were busy getting blinded by the sun’s rays during the eclipse, Israelis were opening their eyes to new figures showing how each school and each school district did in matriculation exams.

US President Donald Trump points to the sun as he arrives to view the solar eclipse, on August 21, 2017, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
US President Donald Trump points to the sun as he arrives to view the solar eclipse, on August 21, 2017, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The results are essentially the same as years past with schools in middle- and upper-class Jewish areas doing well and Arab and ultra-Orthodox areas seeing fewer high schoolers passing the state exam.

While Yedioth reports that Ganei Tikvah tops the list with 100 percent of students passing the test, a #woke Israel Hayom puts the Druze town of Beit Jann, with 99.5%, at the top, noting that Ganei Tikvah has only 38 students and so shouldn’t really count.

In Yedioth, Beit Jann principal Ali Salalha is quoted saying he’s unhappy with the results and vowing to get the school back up to the 100% it had the last two years.

“When you get to the top, you need to find all ways of staying there,” he says.

Yet despite the sunshine, the papers also focus on the lingering chasms between success rates in some better-off schools and others, with Israel Hayom running a headline “Excelling at gaps.”

“Our great investment has shown results in shrinking the gaps in elementary and middle schools,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett is quoted saying. “We have work to do in the high schools, and we plan to change the situation there too.”

In Yedioth, columnist Chen Artzi-Srour notes that the task will not be so easy, with rich parents essentially buying good schools and poor parents stuck in a vicious cycle.

“Here and there there will be administrators and teachers who will make magic. Who will turn ordinary public high schools into great ones. But it is a rare sight, almost without precedent, that requires a teaching staff made of special material. In order to truly change the equation, for each high school to succeed in giving students equal opportunities, they must touch the third rail — the money. Only differential budgeting can make a real change across the board,” she writes.

Money is one problem, and another is ideological differences, according to Haaretz, which reports that translators are refusing to continue working on a civics textbook in Arabic, saying that the material is inappropriate for Arabic readers. The paper says translators are complaining about passages that play up the Jewish experience while ignoring Arab ones.

“The book is formulated on the basis of the strong Jew,” a source is quoted saying. “The Education Ministry expects Arab students to recite Rabbi Yehuda Halevy’s ‘My Heart is in the East’ in the chapter on the historical background of the establishment of Israel and not ask if the state really looks after equal rights? That it is democratic and not only Jewish? The book ignores these questions almost entirely.”

Sunni side up

The top story on Israel Hayom’s front page is about a different type of education, namely Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempting to learn Russian President Vladimir Putin a thing or two about Iran in Syria, when he goes to Russia on Wednesday.

The paper reports that Netanyahu will head to Sochi after failing to get the US to commit to stopping Iranian action on Israel’s border in Syria and Netanyahu.

“In the wake of that, Netanyahu decided to try to convince Putin to restrain the Iranians. Russia has placed full faith so far in the Shiite axis, led by Iran, with Syria and Hezbollah, and justified it with the fight against Islamic State. Israel will warn him that not only will other extremists take IS’s place, but also that bolstering the Shiite axis destabilizes the region, threatens Sunni states and could lead to an escalation [toward war],” the paper reports.

Spanish police officers walk past candles and flowers placed on the ground after a terror attack that killed 14 people and wounded over 120 in Barcelona, Spain, August 20, 2017. (AP/Emilio Morenatti)
Spanish police officers walk past candles and flowers placed on the ground after a terror attack that killed 14 people and wounded over 120 in Barcelona, Spain, August 20, 2017. (AP/Emilio Morenatti)

The end of the search for the suspected Barcelona van driver also makes headlines, and Yedioth columnist Ben Dror Yemini uses the occasion, after holding back for several days, to let loose against the Catalan city, essentially saying it and its BDS-backing, Hamas-supporting mayor got what was coming to them in the tragic terror attack.

“The circle is complete. The useful idiots support one jihadi groups and criticize a terror attack from another. It’s even worse. Some of Hamas’s leaders, like MP Younis al-Astel, have declared that the plan is to conquer all of Europe. Including Barcelona. True, it is constantly claimed that there is a difference between Hamas and IS, but we must listen to Hamas and its calls to “kill all Jews, all Christians, down to the last of them” in order to understand that this is an illusion,” he writes. “Barcelona made every effort to prove that it was okay. It is against Israel. It acts as if it is in favor of human rights. It did not help. In fact, Barcelona’s appeasement gave a green light to the radicalization.”

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