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Hebrew media review

Deadly crash shocks and awes

Six die after runaway tractor-trailer slams into standing traffic; Catholic Church sues Jerusalem over toilet

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Rescue personnel at the site of a mass car crash that left 6 dead on a major Haifa road, Wednesday, April 10, 2013 (photo credit: Avishag Shaar Yashuv/Flash90)
Rescue personnel at the site of a mass car crash that left 6 dead on a major Haifa road, Wednesday, April 10, 2013 (photo credit: Avishag Shaar Yashuv/Flash90)

Car crashes are a dime a dozen in Israel and typically don’t make the news, but when an overloaded tractor-trailer juggernauts through a line of traffic, killing six and injuring dozens, the papers are sure to give it plenty of press. The deadly accident makes the front page of all four major papers.

The collision took place just outside Haifa, when a truck bearing approximately 40 metric tons of gravel lost control and, with failed brakes, plowed into nine passenger cars. Maariv describes the intersection where the tragedy took place as appearing “like a mass terrorist attack.”

“The truck just scattered two lines of cars standing there, and afterwards it hit pedestrians waiting at the bus stop located alongside the road,” eyewitnesses told Israel Hayom.

Yedioth Ahronoth reports that the collision was so severe that two cars combusted and that passengers were trapped in the burning wreckage. It took 40 ambulance crews to treat and evacuate the injured.

The paper quotes traffic police chief Bruno Stein saying that preliminary investigations found that the truck weighed over 70 tons, far more than the limit permitted by the man’s license. “Based on the driver’s behavior, he was not sufficiently experienced to drive a truck that heavy,” he said.

Israel Hayom calls the overloaded vehicle “the truck of carnage” and notes that the driver, 30-year-old Jamal Abu Siam, had 16 prior traffic convictions in his 11 years as a truck driver. He was under armed guard at a Haifa area hospital pending extension of his remand and arraignment.  According to Maariv, police were protecting the man from possible retribution by the victims’ families.

Yedioth Ahronoth’s main headline quotes Abu Siam’s shout of warning to bystanders: “I lost my brakes, flee!” Although most papers have him saying something to that effect, it is not clear how the driver of a runaway tractor-trailer could manage to shout that he’d lost his brakes loud enough and fast enough for anyone to hear him.

Haaretz runs a top story about Israel rejecting US Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposals to get the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks back on track after nearly five years in the freezer. According to the paper, “a senior Israeli official involved in the talks Kerry held in Jerusalem said that Israel opposes Kerry’s proposal to resume negotiations on the basis of discussing border and security issues alone.”

“Kerry believes that he can bring about the solution, the treaty and the salvation. He thinks that the conflict is primarily over territory…and that is wrong,” the anonymous diplomatic source is quoted saying.

Israel Hayom also features a brief article in which it quotes Shas party leader Aryeh Deri saying that “Holocaust Remembrance Day is not obligatory to us as ultra-Orthodox Jews.”

“I, personally, don’t see sanctity and unity on this day [Yom Hashoah]. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel determined that the tenth of Tevet is a general day of mourning, and that it’s the day that we unite religiously [on behalf of] those murdered in the Holocaust,” he said.

He criticized what he called the secular government’s decision to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day on the day of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and said, “No one will teach us what the Holocaust is. Yom Hashoah that ‘they’ decided to declare because of the Warsaw Ghetto doesn’t obligate us as ultra-Orthodox Jews.”

In a totally unrelated matter, the Vatican has sued Jerusalem’s city hall for NIS 352,000 for unpaid rent on a public bathroom in the Old City’s Muslim Quarter. According to the report in Maariv, the toilets were built on Church property in 1962 by the Jordanian government, and since passing into Israeli control in 1967, the Jerusalem municipality hasn’t paid the Church for using its property for the public bathrooms.

“The defendant [Jerusalem city hall] stopped paying the agreed rental fees,” the suit reads. “In not paying the rent, the defendant violated the rental agreement and the law.”

“In addition to expansions made by city hall, it made significant changes to the property and expanded it by invading the land of the plaintiff, without the knowledge of the plaintiff and without any permission.”

“You are required to vacate the property immediately and cease entering the property or making any use of it,” the Church plaintiffs wrote. “And you may not allow others to enter the property, to arrange any work or changes.”

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