Israel is in vacation mode for the Passover holiday, and, with no particularity pressing political developments in sight, the only common thread that can be found in the front page reports of the three prominent Hebrew-language papers of the day are the number of hikers, tourists, and travelers that took advantage of the sunny weather over the weekend and spent their time marveling at the wonders of the great outdoors.
Over a hundred thousand people visited the numerous nature reserves, parks, and forests across the country, each daily reports alongside a photo of merry Israelis at the beach or preparing food on the barbecue. Yedioth Ahronoth notes that thousands were undeterred from traveling to areas near the Gaza Strip border, despite tensions that have risen in the region as a result of terrorist group Hamas’s renewed attack tunnel construction and the IDF’s counter responses to such efforts. With the weather set to become even hotter throughout the week, the reports in each paper add a recommendation for readers to stay hydrated.
Speaking of water, Israel Hayom fiercely criticizes the US over its reported willingness to spend $8.6 million to buy heavy water from the Islamic Republic, only months after Tehran signed a nuclear deal with world powers. “The height of absurdity: The US is purchasing from the Iranian nuclear industry,” reads the headline in the right-leaning daily, which all but fully backed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign to prevent the nuclear agreement from coming into fruition.
The word “absurd” features again in an op-ed by Israel Hayom analyst Boaz Bismuth, who directs his dismay over the heavy water purchase at US President Barack Obama and asserts that the White House’s conduct since the signing of the nuclear deal could have provided plenty of material for a comedic play. “Washington isn’t confiscating, isn’t destroying, isn’t concerned that some third party may do dark business with the negative side of the Middle East,” he writes. “No, the US will do so in a direct manner and prove to us that dawn has come for the US and Iran.” Bismuth, always eager to stick it to Obama and his administration, warns cynically that in the current state of affairs, a day may come when the US actually purchases nuclear weapons from the Islamic Republic, which had only recently been classified by world powers as a threat to world peace.
The White House maintains that Iran has met its obligations under the nuclear accord implementation process, and that the heavy water in question had already been removed from Iran, ensuring it would not be used to support the development of a nuclear weapon. “This transaction provides US industry with a critical product, while also enabling Iran to sell some of its excess heavy water,” spokesman John Kirby said after the deal was announced. Nevertheless — and unsurprisingly — the purchase immediately came under attack in Washington by officials who labeled the transaction as another concession to Tehran and a crack in the wall barring Iran from the US financial system.
Yedioth Ahronoth skips the heavy water purchase entirely, and instead dedicates most of its front page to 17-year-old Or Elbaz, who was killed in Thursday’s deadly bus crash at the Carmel Tunnels near the northern Israeli city of Haifa. Alongside a photo Elbaz, a Haifa native, Yedioth prints a heart-wrenching eulogy by her father, in which he begs the Israeli public to increase its efforts in combating road accidents. “We lost a precious girl, an only girl,” Yossi Elbaz said at his daughter’s funeral, according to the daily. “Now it is all over. Our world is in ruins. We must not cease our struggle against car accidents. The roads are worse than war.”
Haaretz, typically with its eye on the West Bank and on Israel’s apparent transgressions in the region, reports a spike in the number of underage Palestinians who have been detained in Jewish state’s security facilities over the past several months. According to the paper, 386 Palestinian minors are currently being held by Israel. The number of detainees under the age of 16 has jumped from 27 in September of 2015 to 103, among them five under the age of 14, in February of the current year. The report adds that at least seven detainees are being held under administrative detention, which allows for a terror suspect to be held indefinitely without trial in six-month renewable increments. While administrative detainees can appeal the detention itself to the High Court of Justice or lower district courts, the suspects do not receive full trials or have access to the evidence against them.
Haaretz’s figures also reflect the growing number of underage female Palestinian detainees, which have spiked from just one last September to a full dozen in February.
In the past six months, 29 Israelis and four foreign nationals have been killed in attacks by Palestinians. Nearly 200 Palestinians have also been killed, some two-thirds of them while attacking Israelis, and the rest during clashes with troops, according to the Israeli army.
Israel Hayom dedicates a small section to Yoav Eliasi, a rapper known for his hard-line views who goes by the stage name The Shadow, who in a surprise move announced Saturday he would take a break from political activism on social media, and would thus effectively cease to rile up far-right-wing teens against the government, the country’s Arab population, and liberal Israelis. Eliasi’s announcement was apparently prompted by a rally in Tel Aviv, which drew far fewer participants than expected in support of soldier Elor Azaria, who was charged with killing a wounded and incapacitated Palestinian stabber in the West Bank. Eliasi, who had very vocally defended the soldier’s actions and had even organized protests against the arrest of the IDF serviceman, was asked by the organizers of the Tel Aviv rally to refrain from showing up at the event, most probably so as not to paint the protesters as extremists. “Gone are the days in which I lay [on the ground] for the entire right,” Eliasi wrote in a Facebook post, uploaded along a photoshopped image of the rapper shedding what appears to be tears of blood. “Keep on cursing the media and say they are the problem and sacrifice me in order to please them… I know you can’t see, but I too have feelings, and I also hurt, and I have also had enough.”