For Israeli schoolchildren around the country, it’s the official last day of summer as the school year starts on September 1. But with ink not yet dry on the ceasefire with Hamas, the papers can’t help reflecting on how this school year is different from all others.
Yedioth Ahronoth dedicates its first three pages to the upcoming year, including a short piece by 16-year-old Tam Katz of Kibbutz Nahal Oz, who babysat for Daniel Tragerman, the 4-year-old killed by a Hamas mortar. Katz writes about the surrealism of starting school tomorrow even though she hasn’t been home since the ceasefire took hold (her family’s planning to return on Thursday). Despite the hardships, she tries to focus on the good things from the past two months (“unique opportunities, meeting good people, and the strength of the country”) and wishes this upcoming year to be full of only good things.
Haaretz gets into the school spirit by reporting on the fears of teachers trying to combat racism in the classroom. The article focuses on teachers in the Jerusalem area who say they’ve already had to deal with increased racism after the three teens were abducted and killed in May. One Jerusalem-area teacher told the paper that in a WhatsApp group with his students, many students make racist statements throughout the summer. His way of dealing was them was to engage the students and try to combat the thinking.
But other teachers criticized the Education Ministry for not providing a framework to deal with racism in the classroom (other than the directive not to discuss explosive subjects).
In a letter to students in Israel Hayom, Education Minister Shai Piron writes that the first two weeks of the school year will be dedicated to discussing the summer and all its events. In addition, he writes, “We will extol solidarity and brotherly love; together we will fight against racism and study the expression ‘the other is me.’”
Piron concludes his letter by urging students to “take advantage of the school year to learn, to acquire knowledge, curiosity and thinking. Show respect for your friends and teachers, be sure to use clean language, love others, help those in need.”
Left out of the south
Anger is flowing on the front page of Yedioth, as Ashkelon learns it is not included in a government rehabilitation package for the south. The paper clearly makes a case for Ashkelon being included in the 1.3 million shekel assistance package (which is set to be approved on Sunday), as the city was the target of 277 rockets, more that any other city in Israel, and yet it is to get nothing, as are Ashdod and Beersheba also are not included in the package. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office states that the cities will receive funding in the next round, which will be sometime in the next 90 days.
Netanyahu hit the airwaves over the weekend and Israel Hayom reports on the key statements from the prime minister. When asked why he didn’t want to go in and topple Hamas, he responded by saying, “Why do I have to go in if I can crush them from the air without a ground campaign?” Netanyahu admitted that Hamas is still in power, but says it paid a heavy price and is now isolated. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman disagrees, saying, “Israel missed a golden opportunity to end Hamas’s reign in Gaza.”
While the politicians are claiming victory, Haaretz quotes an anonymous military source who says that the IDF believes easing restrictions on Gazan civilians (expanding fishing areas, relaxed border conditions) will help keep the quiet. However, the source says that effective monitoring mechanisms must be developed to ensure that Hamas cannot rearm and that goods are not diverted for building bunkers or other non-civilian use.
The UN hostages
Ever since the ceasefire took hold in the south, Israel’s northern border with Syria has seen a flurry of activity. Yedioth reports that the action hasn’t stopped, as Filipino UN peacekeepers who were held hostage by Islamic rebels in Syria were freed and fled to Israel. The peacekeepers were extracted by an Irish force who rescued them, but there are still 43 Fijian peacekeepers being held. Yedioth indulges a little national pride, writing, along with an accompanying picture showing the peacekeepers returning, “The UN is now on the safe side.”
Over in Israel Hayom, Professor Avraham Ben-Zvi takes the Obama administration to task in an opinion piece for failing to create a comprehensive strategy to combat the Islamic State (IS). Calling Obama’s approach “casual and amateur,” Ben-Zvi writes that we shouldn’t be too surprised by this “helplessness.” “It recently had a rocky affair with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood regime, while at the same time ignoring Hamas’s extremism,” he writes. The “casual” call for international unity against ISIS is insulting, as during Operation Protective Edge, Washington worked against its regional allies instead of with them. He goes on to say that this casual approach has caught up with Obama, as, instead of acting to support moderate forces against Assad, he now must deal with a fragmented Syria where IS controls one-third of the territory.