Atonement: 6 things to know for September 18
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Israel media review

Atonement: 6 things to know for September 18

The Jewish people prepare to mark the High Holiday of Yom Kippur, and the country’s papers focus on forgiveness and remembrance of traumas past

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Israeli troops fire a cannon from a position on the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur War on October 11, 1973. (Radovan Zeev/Bamahane/Defense Ministry Archives)
Israeli troops fire a cannon from a position on the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur War on October 11, 1973. (Radovan Zeev/Bamahane/Defense Ministry Archives)

1. As the Jewish state prepares for the high holiday of Yom Kippur, the traditional Day of Atonement and the anniversary of Israel’s most bloody war which broke out on that day 45 years ago, the country’s major media outlets take a moment to reflect on the current state of Israeli society, and on the collective trauma that still haunts many who took part in the battles of 1973.

  • Israel Hayom, the rightmost publication among the country’s major dailies, leads with coverage of the thousands of Jews who gathered for prayer last night at the Western Wall, noting that the plaza was attended by public figures, influential rabbis, and politicians as well. “Believers from all across the country and the world convened at the Kotel to take part in the important event and to recite ‘selichot’ (a Jewish forgiveness prayer) ahead of Yom Kippur,” the paper reports.
  • In the more center-leaning Yedioth Ahronoth, reporter Amir Alon sheds light on Gefen, a government rehabilitation program that focuses on both criminals and victims of crime, and among other things, aims to reconcile the two sides so that both may move forward and once again live a productive life. Alon writes about Eliezer Eini, a young man in his 20s who, following an accidental hit-and-run, fled the scene and left an injured 86-year-old stranded and injured in the middle of the street. Eini, riddled with guilt, was arrested by police several days later and after being charged was referred to the Gefen program. Thanks to the program, a warm connection was established between the two, and to this day they talk regularly on the phone and even meet for meals. “I did not believe he would forgive me,” Eini tells Alon. “But then he told me something I will never forget in my entire life: ‘You young people are here in the world to make mistakes, we adults are here in the world to forgive.'”

2. On the left, Haaretz dedicates most of its Yom Kippur coverage to the 1973 war, and specifically to the early warnings of an imminent attack by the Egyptian and Syrian armies that were missed by the country’s leaders, leaving a surprised Israel to enter the battlefield heavily unprepared.

  • The paper reports on a newly declassified document which shows that the Mossad head at the time of the Yom Kippur War, Zvi Zamir, sent an explicit message to then prime minister Golda Meir a few hours ahead of the joint Egyptian-Syrian attack, notifying her that a war was highly likely to break out by evening. Zamir suggested leaking the warning to the press in the hopes that its publication would cause the Syrians and Egyptians to believe they had lost the element of surprise and perhaps backtrack on their plans of attack. Zamir’s advice was ignored, and the war began several hours later.

3. The daily goes on to report on the post-trauma endured by many veterans of the Yom Kippur War, noting that a significant number of them are still fighting for their hardships to be recognized and addressed by the state.

  • Due to the stigma which in the past was associated with mental conditions, and since the IDF’s psychological and psychiatric treatment units were in their infancy in 1973, Haaretz reports, many cases of post-trauma were not properly identified. Only years later, when a non-profit dedicated to the victims of the Yom Kippur War was established in 1998, did veterans become aware of the possibility of treatment and seek compensation.
  • Since then, over 12,000 veterans have come forward and discussed their condition with the non-profit. Still, according to Haaretz, a large number of them have not been granted compensation, probably due to the difficult nature of diagnosing a condition decades after the traumatizing event.

4. Virtually all the major publications dedicate at least a few words to the young bike riders of the country, warning them to stay safe and wear appropriate protective gear despite the expected lack of cars on the road on Yom Kippur.

  • While not mandated by law, Israeli city streets and even major highways, whether in religious or highly secular areas of the country, are empty of vehicles for the most part during Yom Kippur. This show of respect for those who observe the high holiday has interestingly enough created a uniquely Israeli tradition in which kids (and adults in many cases) take their bicycles or scooters and zoom, race, or simply leisurely ride down the carless roads.

5. In news unrelated to Yom Kippur, tensions up on the northern border rose significantly as Russia blamed Israel for an incident in which Syrian air defenses inadvertently shot down one of Moscow’s military planes late Monday.

  • The Russian military said the Ilyushin IL-20 with 15 aboard was downed by a Syrian S-200 missile, which had been triggered by an alleged Israeli airstrike on a Syrian facility near Latakia.
  • The Russian military accused the Israeli Air Force of deliberately using the Ilyushin IL-20 electronic surveillance plane, which was flying nearby, as a shield for its attack, putting the aircraft in the path of the incoming Syrian air defenses.
  • The Israeli military has refused to comment on the incident.

6. And in last night’s Emmy Awards ceremony, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” a freshman sitcom about an unhappy 1950s Jewish homemaker liberated by stand-up comedy, earned best actress honors for star Rachel Brosnahan.

  • The critically acclaimed show is an homage to the iconic Jewish comedians of the 1950s and ’60s, including Lenny Bruce and Joan Rivers. The show is set in the unmistakably Jewish milieu of Upper West Side affluence, cigar-chomping garment executives and Greenwich Village cafe culture.
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