In marking death, echoes of a lost brother in arms
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Hebrew media review

In marking death, echoes of a lost brother in arms

Benaya Sarel, killed in Gaza in 2014, haunts coverage of the friendly-fire death of Eliav Gelman

File: Hundreds attend the funeral of IDF reserve officer Eliav Gelman in Kfar Etzion, February 24, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
File: Hundreds attend the funeral of IDF reserve officer Eliav Gelman in Kfar Etzion, February 24, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The old cliché that Israelis are all kith and kin is a little less tired in the Hebrew print press Thursday morning, as papers cover the death of a reserve officer during a stabbing attack and highlight his familial tie to a soldier killed in the 2014 Gaza War.

Nearly two years have passed since Benaya Sarel was killed in Rafah, but his memory is so indelibly imprinted on the Israeli psyche that the death of his brother-in-law by marriage brings him back onto the front pages.

Eliav Gelman, killed by friendly fire as soldiers tried to thwart a stabbing attack on him at the Gush Etzion junction, doesn’t even merit his own headline in mass-market tabloids Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom, which lump him in with Sarel as “two heroes,” and “family of heroes” on their respective front pages.

Yedioth explains that Gelman’s brother was married to Sarel’s sister and notes that he of all the Israeli fatalities in the fighting is among the most remembered because of a picture of him taken for a newspaper story days before he was killed.

Mjr. Benaya Sarel, 26, was killed during Operation Protective Edge. (Photo credit: IDF)
Maj. Benaya Sarel, 26, was killed during Operation Protective Edge. (Courtesy IDF)

“The picture of Benaya smiling under a helmet, taken just days before his death, turned him into one of the symbols of the heavy price paid during the war in Gaza, as well as the story of the young man who refused to leave the battle, despite the fact that he was injured and was supposed to be married less than three weeks after he was killed,” the paper reports. “But for the family this was a personal tragedy – one they experienced yesterday again.”

Despite the headlines, most of the coverage focuses on Gelman’s death, life and late-night funeral, veering away from the newsy and into the heart-rending in both papers.

“Just yesterday I called you to help me with some homework and you didn’t hang up until you were sure I understood,” Gelman’s sister Tzofit is quoted saying it the burial. “And me, I started to knit you a kippa, and I never finished. It was going to be perfect, like you. Watch over us, Eliav, and I hope you will be the last.”

Israel Hayom commentator Emily Amrousi, who seems to be called in anytime there is a tragedy involving settlers, links Eliav not to Sarel but to Tuvia Yanai Weissman, killed in a terror attack a week ago, as he tried to thwart a stabbing despite being unarmed. As she has many times in the past, Amrousi once again writes of her struggles to process the news with her kids, 9 and 11.

“Do I want them to grow up like Yanai Weissman and those willing to sacrifice themselves to save others? Do I prefer to teach them to protect themselves, to hide, to save their skins and run? This is the terrible reality of life,” she writes. “I didn’t say a thing. My kids said it themselves: Mom, he’s a hero. The heroics of Yanai and Eliav, men of the mountains of Binyamin and the Hebron Hills, are also a result of the land they grew up on. When their parents chose to live in Maaleh Michmas and Kiryat Arba, isolated settlements where it’s not easy, they did it not for themselves, but for others.”

In Yedioth, though, Eitan Haber asks why these Israeli parents and children living in the West Bank need to keep sacrificing themselves when Israel can just give up the burden of holding Palestinian territory.

“Our country knows how to raise fearless warriors, who take on the enemy face to face and risk their lives. In their deaths they grant us life, but perhaps it’s time that we be able to live in this land without having to demand such a terrible sacrifice,” he writes.

If Israel is a family, then it would follow that somebody has to be the miserly uncle who refuses to help out his destitute relatives. According to Haaretz, that figure is none other than Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav, who is keeping an NGO from leasing a building for homeless youth in the bay city.

“I have the autistic [children], I [should] have the homeless? What’s the matter with you?… I don’t want them in my city, let them go to [suburb] Kiryat Ata,” the paper quotes him saying in a recording they obtained. “Why do I have to give you a place in Haifa? Heaven forbid if they come here… If you want to continue with this there will be a world war.”

Likud MK Amir Ohana in the Knesset on December 28, 2015 (Knesset spokesman)
Likud MK Amir Ohana in the Knesset on December 28, 2015 (Knesset spokesman)

Yahav isn’t the only one being shamed in the press, though. Amir Ohana, Likud’s first openly gay MK, gets raked over the coals for joining his coalition colleagues in not supporting gay rights bills in the Knesset, a day after the parliament marked LGBT rights day.

Yedioth juxtaposes pictures of Ohana speaking in front of a pride flag on Tuesday with him exiting the Knesset on Wednesday so he wouldn’t have to vote on the measures.

“In line with his standing as an inexperienced junior MK, Ohana didn’t vote against the coalition. Instead of taking a stand and advancing equality for the LGBT community, he abstained with opposition members. In his defense some claimed yesterday that even if he did vote ‘it wouldn’t change the outcome,’ and one young MK can’t just rebel,” commentator Etai Segal writes. “That’s the politics of cowardice”

Speaking of hypocrites, Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev points an accusatory finger at the Republican Party in the US following Donald Trump’s victory in Nevada, writing that the Grand Old Party paved the way for the “hate-filled” candidate with its own fiery rhetoric against the Obama administration and now must deal with the consequences.

“In the seven and a half years since they lost the White House in 2008, Republican leaders have been wary of their voters’ rage and have thus tried to stoke it in their favor. With the assistance of the all-powerful broadcasters of right-wing media, they have savaged the evil administration, stirred resentment, incited against minorities and immigrants and portrayed an enfeebled America that has been brought to its knees,” he writes. “They poured more and more fuel on the fire, until Donald Trump came in to spread the flames, in their direction as well. Dumbstruck, they are now helpless as he burns down their house.”

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