Out of the flames, a guttering hope: 7 things to know for January 19
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Israel media review

Out of the flames, a guttering hope: 7 things to know for January 19

After Auschwitz, poetry is barbaric, but before an Auschwitz commemoration, hope springs eternal for Naama Issachar, for immunity and for new views to help understand the horror

This photograph taken on December 15, 2019, in Oswiecim, Poland, shows an aerial view of the railway entrance to former German Nazi death camp Auschwitz II - Birkenau with its SS guards tower. (Pablo GONZALEZ / AFP)
This photograph taken on December 15, 2019, in Oswiecim, Poland, shows an aerial view of the railway entrance to former German Nazi death camp Auschwitz II - Birkenau with its SS guards tower. (Pablo GONZALEZ / AFP)

1. Here comes the rain: Israel as a country does not get a lot of weather, so anytime a rainstorm blows in it becomes news to some degree. But with the country still recovering from heavy storms that devastated parts of Tel Aviv and Nahariya, the coming of a new wet weather system is watched with foreboding.

  • “Get out your jackets,” advises Channel 12 news, but perhaps it should be advising Israelis to get out their kayaks. The channel publishes pictures of flooded roads and cars almost totally underwater in a parking garage.
  • Walla reports that an Ashkelon man had to be saved from his flooded car.
  • “This is going to be a deluge of a week,” the news site reports.
  • And it’s only going to get colder and rainier, with talk of hail and even graupel (what Israelis call sleet) in the capital later in the week. “Starting Tuesday, cold air will come down from Russia (wonder why). The picture could open up over the weekend, all options are open,” reports the Yerushamayim Jerusalem weather website.

2. Don’t poke Putin: Cold air isn’t the only thing coming from the great white north, with Russian President Vladimir Putin expected to visit this week, along with 30-odd other leaders and top dignitaries, to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

  • Most Israelis are not looking back, but rather forward — to whether Putin will release jailed Israeli backpacker Naama Issachar.
  • Channel 12 news reports that Issachar’s very vocal family is being asked to pipe down until then, out of worries they could blow up whatever deal may be in the works.
  • The family had previously suggested protesting Putin publicly while he is here to embarrass him into releasing her, but this seemingly puts the kibosh on that plan. Israeli media has speculated that Putin would announce her release during his visit, but would not bring her to Israel.
  • Channel 12 said on Saturday that Issachar “would not likely be on the plane with Putin.”
  • Israel Hayom reports that who is returning to Israel is Naama’s mother Yaffa, after spending the last several months in Russia trying to help her daughter, in what it calls a “hint,” noting that she said before she would not return without her daughter.
  • “Despite that, and as opposed to the air of optimism in Israel, authorities in Russia have refused to even allow her to visit her daughter in jail,” the paper says.

3. A new view of Auschwitz: For those who are looking back in remembrance at history’s darkest chapter, ToI’s Matt Lebovic has the largely unknown story of a book actually written at Auschwitz, in the days immediately following liberation, by Dutch-Jewish psychiatrist Eddy de Wind.

  • “In his book, de Wind wrote about the smell of ‘searing flesh’ emanating from the Auschwitz I crematorium chimney, and how it affected his mindset,” writes Lebovic.
  • De Wind’s family has for years attempted to have the book translated and widely published, and “Last Stop Auschwitz” will finally appear in English on Monday.
  • Also coming out soon is the documentary “Auschwitz Untold in Colour,” which revitalizes archival footage of the death camp by colorizing it, in the same way as has been done with other historical footage, to lend it added relevancy.
  • “The effect is extraordinary. The distancing effect of monochrome is lifted, and you can far more easily imagine yourself among the thronging crowd arriving at the death camp. It is chilling, compelling and extremely powerful,” writes Keren David in the Jewish Chronicle.
  • Israel Hayom, meanwhile, is incensed that TV producers view the Holocaust remembrance ceremony as less relevant than US President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, after the New York Post reported that CNN had declined a chance to have Wolf Blitzer interview Veep Mike Pence in Jerusalem, because their coverage is all impeachment all the time.
  • “At the moment, it doesn’t appear CNN is interested in sending anybody to do the interview in his place and would rather focus on the Senate impeachment trial taking place in Washington, DC, next week,” it reports in English.

4. 33% metal jacket: Back to the weather, Haaretz’s Amos Harel writes that Israeli F-16s that were grounded after being left in a hangar that flooded, and emergency services’ inability to deal with flooding elsewhere without the army’s help, are a bad sign should Israel’s homefront need help in a potential battle against Iran or Hezbollah.

  • “If the emergency phone system collapses under the burden of 2,000 calls in a storm, how will it function in the event of a war of missiles, especially if it begins with an attack that was not anticipated by intelligence,” he asks.
  • Yedioth Ahronoth’s lead story also does not inspire confidence in Israel’s might, reporting that damn near 33 percent of all army eligible males are getting exemptions, mostly for mental health issues.
  • And it’s not just the men. Women are also breaking a record,with over 44% getting exemptions.
  • Writer Yossi Yehoshua calls the numbers “worrying,” and tweets with alarm that “there have never been numbers like this.”
  • He reports that the army says it’s taking “significant steps” to combat the trend, in his words.
  • “They need to see that army service isn’t just an obligation or right, but also an opportunity.”
  • The challenges, though, are not going anywhere, rain, mental issues, or shine. Walla news reports that the army fears Hamas will start increasing terror activity in the West Bank, as a countermeasure now that the group is reaching a deal for calm with Israel in Gaza.
  • “According to Israeli security sources, Hamas leadership in Gaza responsible for attacks in the West Bank have changed tactics in the last year,” reports Amir Buhbut. “Instead of working as a ‘boutique’ with only certain infrastructure, it’s acting on a much wider scale and more aggressively in order to challenge the stability of the Palestinian Authority and hurt Israeli soldiers and civilians at the same time that efforts are underway for a deal between Gaza and Jerusalem,” he writes.

5. Going leftistrein: Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, though, seems to be just as concerned with Hamas in the West Bank as he is with Israeli leftists, some of whom he decides to ban from the West Bank with restraining orders.

  • While the order targets some 30 people, Haaretz reports that the real target is Yonatan Pollack, an activist and Haaretz employee who was recently arrested at the paper’s Tel Aviv office.
  • The paper’s Harel writes that knowing he won’t be defense minister for long, he’s trying to do as much as possible as quickly as possible, and the IDF’s “General Staff is struggling to keep up with a defense minister who seems to be on uppers.”
  • Dror Etkes, a former leader of Peace Now, tweets that he was not among the 30. “I’m in a panic. I didn’t get a restraining order. I’m not worth anything.”
  • And what about Siri? Channel 12 news writes that users who asked the Apple assistant who Reuven Rivlin is got the reply that he is the “head of the occupation state.” The culprit is not Tim Cook, though, but rather some mischievous Wikipedia pranksters.

6. Saved by the commemoration: Also likely on borrowed time along with Bennett is Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein. Israel Hayom reports that Edelstein will “make good,” and not allow the Knesset to convene to push ahead immunity proceedings this week.

  • “According to Knesset assessments, Edelstein will only convene the plenum next week and not this week because of the Holocaust conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday and Thursday,” reports the paper’s Mati Tuchfeld.
  • Tuchfeld also reports that even though Blue and White is threatening to depose him, “the road is still long.”
  • Ynet reports that Blue and White says it is holding quiet talks with Edelstein and thinks he will open the Knesset plenum eventually.
  • “In that case, they will make up for his ‘foot-dragging’ by pushing a hearing blitz in order to convene a Knesset panel to vote on Netanyahu’s immunity request,” the site reports.
  • In the meantime, it’s still nasty out there. Channel 13 reports that Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman refused to shake Likud minister Miri Regev’s hand when they were both in the studio.
  • “I told him good week and glad tidings, and he preferred not to answer me so I still say to you — good week and glad tidings,” she says.
  • Liberman’s response before taking off: “I only speak to humans.” Burn.

7. Trains, planes, and semi-automatics: There’s plenty of other interesting bric-a-brac to check out.

  • In the New York Times, Matti Friedman explores Israel’s ghosted train lines and what we lose when walls replace links.
  • In The Atlantic, Graeme Wood recalls his strange near-run-in with Iran’s supreme leader and says he would not get too worked up about protests over the downing of an airliner there yet.
  • In JTA, Marcy Oster writes about the steep fall of Stav Shaffir, once Israel’s brightest rising political star and now its redheaded stepchild.
  • And lastly, the Miami New Times writes about Jews increasingly packing heat as a response to anti-Semitism. “It’s like free advertising for gun stores whenever there’s an attack on Jewish people, especially synagogues,” says one gun store owner.
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