Taking a break from breaking news
Hebrew media review

Taking a break from breaking news

The intermediate days of the Passover festival give some Israelis a respite from school and work, as newsrooms scramble to find stories for the front pages

Raoul Wootliff covers politics, corruption and crime for The Times of Israel.

Israelis visit Jerusalem's Biblical Zoo during Passover, April 24, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israelis visit Jerusalem's Biblical Zoo during Passover, April 24, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

With kids off school and many Israelis taking vacation, the Knesset on recess and government offices closed, for some, the week-long festival of Passover is an opportunity for a break.

But even if the respite from a busy life can sometimes lead to a lack of news, media outlets do not get a break, with columns and airtime needing to be filled just as much as the national parks and public attractions.

For Israel’s daily papers, the two — a lack of breaking news and the vacation period — come together to produce intensive coverage of Israelis’ holiday habits and an opportunity to focus on some other issues often pushed aside during regular business hours.

Two-thirds of Yedioth Ahronoth‘s front page is filled with a photo of tents and campers on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where over 10,00 people visited on Sunday, accompanied by the hard-hitting headline, “The country is hiking,” including a superimposed image of a flower between the words.

The front page of Yedioth Aharonoth, April 25, 2016. (Screenshot)
The front page of Yedioth Aharonoth, April 25, 2016. (Screenshot)

Slightly dampening the mood is a small insert showing a photo of the endless traffic caused by all the intrepid travelers and a summary of the busy sites across the country titled, “There is nowhere to flee to.”

“Hol Hamoed (the intermediate days of the Passover festival) – like an epidemic in a futuristic dystopian film – is everywhere. No one can get away. You can go on the roads, to the open spaces, the national parks, or even shut your selves at home. Hol Hamoed will be waiting for you,” writes Yedioth’s Raanan Shaked before examining the specific numbers in each of those inviting places.

The other third of the page focuses on the story of best friends Or Albaz and Ilana Lechem, the former of whom was killed and the latter seriously injured when the bus they were on crashed in the Carmel Tunnels in Haifa four days ago.

Israel Hayom goes with a slightly more newsy headline of, “High alert and tension on the Temple Mount and in Hebron.”

Fearing unrest during the ongoing festival of Passover, police have bolstered security in Jerusalem’s Old City and on the Temple Mount in an attempt to prevent disturbances at the flashpoint religious site.

Police seen at the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem's Old City, on April 10, 2016. (Corina Kern/Flash90)
Police seen at the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, on April 10, 2016. (Corina Kern/Flash90)

Underneath the headline, three titled photos appear with three regular occurrences of the vacation week — “festivals,” “fun,” and “car accidents.”

Haaretz, a broadsheet as ever, does not feature the festival activities on its front page, instead — possibly due to a lack of other hard news — leading with a story on a record number of missing police files and subsequently canceled indictments.

The paper’s front page also includes reports on two developments on Israel’s diplomatic front.

Military correspondent Gili Cohen reports on a recent arms sale, writing that “the final experts’ report to the UN Security Council on Ivory Coast points to violations of the UN arms embargo on the West African nation, including by an Israeli company.”

“According to the Israeli law regulating defense exports, the Defense Ministry is supposed to supervise brokered export deals, but in practice it does not — despite an announcement by the ministry that it would start overseeing such transactions in 2014,” she reports.

In an exclusive, Haaretz Arab affairs reporter Jacky Khoury reports that “senior Palestinian officials, including some from Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, are criticizing the Palestinian Authority president’s decision to postpone consideration of a UN Security Council resolution condemning settlement construction.”

Utilizing a lack of government decisions or public statements by ministers to be outraged about, the Haaretz editorial instead focuses on the recent announcement by Health Minister Yaakov Litzman of an effort to battle obesity in Israel.

Minister of Health Yaakov Litzman during a Knesset plenary session, January 11, 2016. (Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Minister of Health Yaakov Litzman during a Knesset plenary session, January 11, 2016. (Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

“What initially looked like a slip of the tongue by Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, who declared ‘McDonald’s out!’ at a closed conference of cardiologists earlier this month, quickly proved to be part of a large-scale and unusual campaign by his ministry against unhealthy food,” the paper writes.

Highlighting recent reforms in other Western countries targeting products with high salt, fat and sugar content, the paper says, “It’s this environment that the state must contend with, using every governmental tool at its disposal: taxing unhealthy foods like sugary drinks; making healthy food accessible to the poor by lowering customs duties and opening the economy to competition that will lower the prices of fruits and vegetables; increasing public awareness of the importance of healthy food; and, just as was done with cigarettes, stressing the damage caused by fast food, processed food and sweetened food.”

“Other countries have already proven that this is possible. Now it’s Israel’s turn,” the editorial concludes.

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