Save your prayers: 9 things to know for October 29
Israel media review

Save your prayers: 9 things to know for October 29

Anger persists along with grief as the Jewish community grapples with the Squirrel Hill synagogue attack; plus, when is a synagogue not a synagogue, and when is terror not terror

A mourner prays after laying flowers at the site of the mass shooting that killed 11 people and wounded 6 at the Tree Of Life Synagogue on October 28, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images/AFP)
A mourner prays after laying flowers at the site of the mass shooting that killed 11 people and wounded 6 at the Tree Of Life Synagogue on October 28, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images/AFP)

1. Uniting in pain: The long road to recovery after what was almost certainly the worst attack on American Jews began Monday with remembrances and calls for unity, even as grief and anger shine lights on rifts within the Jewish community, the Israel-US divide and political polarization in America.

  • “One prayer” reads the feel-good headline of popular Israeli tabloid Yedioth Ahronoth.
  • “We’ll emerge from this stronger, like our brothers in Israel,” reads the top headline in fellow tabloid Israel Hayom. “We learned from [Israelis] how to deal with incidents like this and move on. I hope the day comes when we will not need to console each other,” the paper quotes an official from the Pittsburgh Jewish Federation saying.
  • JTA’s Ron Kampeas sets the scene in a grieving Pittsburgh: “The day after the killings, Pittsburgh’s Jews threw up umbrellas to drive off a rain as cold and cutting as steel. They filed into halls that never were associated with Jewish worship, and they prayed, because one of their houses of worship had been profaned by a killer swearing that he would kill every one of them.”
  • In Haaretz, Amir Tibon writes that as the Squirrel Hill community rallied together, there was a feeling that “hate will not win.”
  • “For many, the vigil on Saturday night was an uplifting and optimistic event,” he writes.
  • “It is heartbreaking. Full stop. Have a moment of silence, light a candle, remember that when Jews are killed for being Jews you bleed, all Jews bleed. Thus, treat this butchery of hate not as an opportunity to advance a political agenda. Make it personal. Make it about love. Mourn it,” writes Shmuel Rosner in the Jewish Journal.

2. Pointing fingers: But for many, there seems to be little appetite for singing kumbaya and letting bygones be bygones.

  • In the Guardian, Michael Segalov tells well-wishers they can keep their thoughts and prayers: “Jews make up just 0.2% of the global population. To take on antisemitism – and to protect ourselves in a time of rising hatred and danger – we’ll rely on more than condolences and otherwise empty words.”
  • Haaretz’s lead editorial points out that “many both in Israel and around the world are uncomfortable with the way Israel’s right-wing government, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, has been embracing non-liberal European leaders, and with his almost symbiotic relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump, who is championing the struggle against immigrants. … Israel should not be deluded; in a world where foreigners and minorities are disparaged and people dream of ethnic and national purity, Jews will always be the victims of hatred and violence.”
  • This tweet from Wall Street Journal editor Bret Stephens also earns big plaudits:

3. Don’t blame Trump: But in pro-Trump Israel Hayom, editor Boaz Bismuth pushes back, writing that linking Trump, Netanyahu or anyone else to the attack is “incitement.”

  • “The bodies of the victims were still lying on the floor of the building in Squirrel Hill when my colleagues here in Israel had already begun to wonder whether the shocking act of the abominable neo-Nazi Robert Bowers had not been done under the aegis of the American president. Revolting,” he writes.

4. What’s in a name? Many in Israel and America were more revolted by the refusal of the ultra-Orthodox press in Israel to call the location of the massacre a synagogue because it is a Conservative synagogue.

  • The Seventh Eye media watchdog notes that the papers didn’t only make do with refusing to use the word in their own verbiage, but also edited quotes of other people to take out the word — much as they will pretend women don’t exist and edit them out of photos.
  • Makor Rishon reporter Tzvika Klein points out that in the US, ultra-Orthodox groups and publications have no problem calling a synagogue a synagogue, such as in a statement from Agudath Yisrael.
  • Klein also reports that Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau, when pressed to use the term in an interview, calling it only “a place of clear Jewish character” in an interview.
  • The media picked up the story as Lau refusing to call it a synagogue, which he did, though some point out that he kind of did call it one when he said: “They were killed because they were Jews. Does it matter which synagogue or liturgical tradition they pray in?”
  • The New York Daily News, sometimes called the Daily Jews for the number of Jews it employs, makes the mistake of calling the synagogue a temple, which is a term employed by Reform Jews, but not by most Conservative and Orthodox.


5. Why no terror charges? Bowers is due in court Monday afternoon.

  • Why hasn’t he been charged with terrorism? ToI’s Eric Cortellessa reports that it’s because there is no such thing.
  • “There is no federal crime labeled domestic terrorism,” Department of Justice spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores tells him.
  • While the US Patriot Act, passed in 2001 by the George W. Bush administration following the September 11 attacks, includes a working definition of “domestic terrorism,” no crime was ever created to match such a designation.
  • The law describes domestic terrorism as an attempt to “intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.”

6. Darfurious: In a sign of how things are moving on, Israel’s print press devotes little space to the tragedy beyond the front page. On Monday morning, most news sites were leading with news of the Indonesian Lion Air crash.

  • Haaretz’s lead story reports that Israel may stop granting so-called “humanitarian status” to asylum-seekers from Sudan’s Darfur region.
  • “Instead, the state is examining whether the situation in Sudan has improved to the extent that deportation is possible,” the paper reports.
  • The move would come after Israel announced recently it would stop giving the status to those from DR Congo, and would begin deporting them.

7. It does a party good: Yedioth Ahronoth has a bombshell report that the price of price-controlled milk is going down by a few agorot (cents).

  • The paper says the reform will lead to a savings of hundreds of millions of shekels a year for consumers.
  • What it means? Probably that elections are the on the way and treasurer Moshe Kahlon is looking to be the hero of the consumer again. No better way to win votes than a populist move like dropping the price of milk.

8. Municipal election meddling: An actual bombshell report from ToI’s Raoul Wootliff and Sue Surkes says Israeli government officials are working to thwart online election meddling ahead of Tuesday’s municipal election.

  • An Israeli government body is working in conjunction with online social media giants in order to prevent active efforts at election interference. The National Cyber Directorate said thousands of fake Facebook profile accounts created to spread false information about Israeli political candidates have been taken offline at the agency’s request.
  • However, the body running the effort has refused to divulge information about what is being removed, raising questions about whether it is being impartial and overstepping its bounds.
  • Insistently refusing to answer questions from The Times of Israel, first the Directorate, and then the PMO itself, have declined to specify why the accounts warranted removal, how many were closed, and whether they were managed by foreign governments or overseas parties.
  • Read the whole megillah here.

9. The eyes have it: Finally, a bizarre ad campaign featuring only the words “Iran is here” and showing a woman in a Niqab with only her eyes showing has many scratching their heads.

  • The eyes apparently are enough to give away that the woman is supermodel Bar Refaeli, according to Hadashot news, which reports that the campaign is nothing more than another commercial venture, for a Hoodies sweatshirt store.
  • Many are annoyed, according to news reports, given the campaign’s proximity to the synagogue massacre, and the fact that restrictions on women in Iran maybe isn’t the best fodder for a crass bid to get people to buy hoodies.
  • “Yalla, sweetheart, if you lived in Iran you would not be alive today,” Channel 10 quotes one person writing in response, who clearly thought the campaign was political in nature. “Say thank you and how much hutzpah you have to compare this country to Iran.”
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