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Hebrew media review

Leave the cannoli, take the baby

A shadow is haunting Israel — that of children left unattended in overheated vehicles by their parents

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.

Ambulances at Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)
Ambulances at Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

Israeli parents are forgetting their kids in cars, time after time, and the dire consequences are heartbroken families. It’s also translating into a new hot-button issue and a media craze.

For two days running, Israel Hayom has led with the latest deadly trend afflicting the children of Israel — forgetful parents and overheating cars. According to the paper’s report, “In the third time in two weeks a 2-year-old girl was forgotten in a car for several hours. This time it happened in the settlement of Dolev in [the West Bank region of] Benjamin.”

Avi Shuman writes in the paper’s op-ed that the problem lies in concentration, or lack thereof. “When the cell phone turns into a central tool in our lives, it’s purportedly possible to understand that our head is no longer here. We receive calls every moment, text messages, emails. We take our work home with us. We’re never 100% focused on the thing happening here and now,” he opines.

These all-too-common tragedies “can happen to every one of us and we need to start changing our way of life,” he urges. “Put the phone aside for a moment. A little focus… the world will wait.” He preemptively sums up the practicality of his advice, however, before the punchline: “Easier said than done.”

Haaretz reports that the Binyamin Regional Council, where both deaths occurred this week, resolved to put up signs in their settlements to remind residents not to forget their helpless infant alone in the car. As anyone who’s driven in the West Bank has observed, drivers there ignore all the other traffic signs on the road, so what good will be achieved by one more visual reminder?

The paper notes that even though the Transportation Ministry was advised to launch a public service campaign to educate parents about the issue, no such program has been put in place. Next thing we should expect is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announcing a “No Child Left Behind” program.

But, hey, statistics never lie. This wave of tragedy isn’t as bad as the press is making it out to be, according to figures Haaretz cites from B’Terem, an Israeli pediatrics organization. Since 2008, only 12 infants have died in 205 recorded Forgotten Baby Syndrome (yes, they have a name for it) incidents.

While on the subject of numbers and FBS, and in case the media craze wasn’t driving you to never drive with your children again, according to an article in Maariv the temperature in a closed car in the summer time can rise to 60° C (140° F) within 20 minutes. When the temperature outside is between 35° and 37° C (95° F), the temperature inside the car can jump to over 57° C (135° F) within 20 minutes.

The paper provides the most sensible advice, because it’s so simplistic: “In order to prevent incidents like these… never leave a baby or child in a car unattended, not even for a minute.” It then offers a piece of advice: “It’s worthwhile to leave an item next to your child you won’t leave without: a telephone, wallet, bag, or keys.”

Smadar Shir of Yedioth Ahronoth gets hyper-dramatic and says a disease stalks the land, afflicting man and woman alike, which each and every one of us “wraps in like a pleasant blanket that calms our fear and protects us from the threats of life,” namely, the mentality of “It Won’t Happen to Me.”

When it comes to leaving children in cars, however, Shir snaps: “Don’t say, ‘It won’t happen to me.’ ”

“Today, as it’s no longer a solitary incident, but rather a chain of accidents emerging like an epidemic, none of us are immune,” she says, adding with a rhetorical and sexist flourish, “You, too, men. To be more precise, you especially.”

The paper also features a digitalized recreation of Monday’s child-abuse episode which is more bizarre than helpful to readers. Opaque, featureless, black 3-D graphic people populate the panels in an attempt reminiscent of Taiwanese news simulation videos.

Yedioth Ahronoth's dramatic recreation of Monday's child abandonment in a car. (photo credit: image capture from Yedioth Ahronoth)

In other news, Haaretz reports that the EU ordered a ban on funding, cooperation, awarding of scholarships, research funds or prizes to residents of West Bank Jewish settlements and East Jerusalem by any of its 28 member states. “The regulation, which takes effect Friday, mandates that any contract signed by an EU country with Israel must include a clause stating that the settlements are not part of the state of Israel and therefore are not inclusive in the agreement,” it writes.

The paper cites a senior Israeli official, saying that the latest move by Brussels was an “earthquake.” According to the authority, the EU has now made it a “formal and official policy” not to engage with Israel in its activities over the Green Line.

The practical difference this will make, the paper notes, is that any future agreements with the EU would necessitate Israel formally acknowledging that West Bank settlements are not part of its territory.

Yedioth and Maariv also report on Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein saying he won’t take Bank of Israel gubernatorial candidate Jacob Frenkel at his word and that the state “will attempt to understand what really happened in those fateful 24 hours in November 2006 in the duty-free at the Hong Kong airport,” writes Yedioth Ahronoth.

According to a recent charge, the-once — and future — Bank of Israel governor allegedly shoplifted a bottle of cologne from the Chinese airport shop. Maariv reports that “for the sake of the matter, Foreign Ministry or Justice Ministry staff will likely need to go to Hong Kong to collect additional testimonies.”

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