Hebrew media review

The hills are alive with the sound of rocket fire

Sirens in the south interrupt 5,000 viewers of ‘The Sound of Music’; an Arab MK’s outburst has pundits questioning his sanity

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

An Iron Dome Missile Defense battery deployed near the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, July 21, 2014.  (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
An Iron Dome Missile Defense battery deployed near the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, July 21, 2014. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

After a rocket is intercepted over the skies of Ashdod on Monday night, interrupting an outdoor production of “The Sound of Music,” the Hebrew papers on Tuesday wonder if Israel ought to expect an encore of last summer’s Gaza war. Meanwhile, an Arab lawmaker’s outburst on the Temple Mount has pundits questioning his sanity and Israeli policy.

Some 5,000 people were evacuated from an Ashdod open-air theater as the sirens rang out, Yedioth Ahronoth reports. “The classic musical was presented under the stars and with a huge crowd comprised of city residents and 1,500 residents of the Gaza border towns, who were given a special invitation [to the event],” it reports.

“Oded Feldman, a producer of the show, told Yedioth Ahronoth last night that the siren was triggered as the curtain fell. ‘The actors were already in the wing — and they quickly dropped to the floor.'”

In a column for the paper, Matan Tzuri laments that for residents of the south, “nothing has changed” since the 50-day conflict in 2014.

“The rocket fire is renewed but is not new,” he writes.

“Indeed, nothing has changed since Operation Protective Edge. The simple and loyal citizens deserve at least the absolute minimum, a new and quiet situation. In the history of the world, after every war, something new began. It didn’t matter what, but something new happened. And only here did a long and difficult war come to an end, in which soldiers fought like lions, citizens displayed model resilience, and we’re back to same point: the trickle of rocket fire that will turn into the next war, in who knows how long.”

Yedioth channels its inner Jewish mother in its front-page spread, which panics about chicken shortages and rising vegetable prices in Israeli supermarkets. The daily features no less than four separate items about stock in four supermarkets around the country. “The shelves are empty,” its headline reads.

Over in Israel Hayom, the rocket fire leads its coverage and the daily isn’t buying the official reassurances.

“The IDF said that Salafists identified with the Islamic State are behind the fire. However, the rocket [fired] toward southern Israel came hours after Hamas’s military wing, Izz-ed Din al-Qassam announced that ‘all the truce understandings and ceasefire agreements are canceled.’ The spokesman said this decision came ‘in light of Israel’s actions in al-Aqsa and the IDF’s activities deep inside the Gaza Strip,'” it reports.

“Ironically enough, the interception came on the same day that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said: ‘It’s been a year since Operation Protective Edge and in the Gaza Strip, Hamas is deterred and is dealing with internal challenges, including against the Islamic State and others, that fire from the Strip to defy it.'”

Meanwhile, columnist Dan Margalit brands Zahalka an “anti-Semite” and urges him to seek psychological help.

“Are Zahalka’s outbursts under control or do they overpower him? Impossible to tell. That would require a professional evaluation by someone who understands psychology. It’s possible that both options are correct, sometimes the first and other times the latter. In any case, Zahalka holds a doctorate in pharmacology from the Zionist university that was established 90 years ago on Mount Scopus, overlooking al-Aqsa, and he knows better than others if he could use a pill, and if yes, which one,” Margalit writes.

MK Jamal Zahalka (second from right) on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem on Tuesday, September 29 2015 (courtesy Joint List)
MK Jamal Zahalka (second from right) on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem on Tuesday, September 29, 2015 (courtesy: Joint List)

In Haaretz, columnist Ravit Hecht also dives into the Temple Mount debate, wondering why the holy site drives avowed secularists “out of their minds.”

“What does MK Zahalka from Balad, whose party members I’ve heard with my own ears declare they are working to advance values of universalism, democracy and liberalism, have to do with the outcry on the Temple Mount? How does a pile of stones manage to drive secular people out of their minds, those who are repulsed by the holiness of sites and stones, and work for the sanctity of life — those who chose secularism, progressiveness, and personal and economic liberalism, and freedom from the traditions of religion?”

“The Temple Mount is not only a religious powder keg, as it is presented or seems at first glance, because then it would possible to find a fair international solution, with the mediation of religious institutions,” she continues. “It’s something far worse: a religious framework that is cast with nationalism, accompanied by its ugly and inevitable cousin — xenophobia.”

Haaretz’s lead story is on the Communications Ministry’s favoring the Bezeq telecom giant, a move it speculates is a plot by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to control the media and the minds of the Israeli public.

“In the 100 days since [Shlomo] Filber took over as director general – under the aegis of Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as communications minister – there’s a discernible pattern. The ministry approved a merger between Bezeq and its Yes satellite television unit. Filber approved cancelling an 11.3 million-shekel penalty on Bezeq for failing to implement telephony reforms. He is likely to award Yes a license to operate its own channel. Filber has created a Bezeq-friendly Communications Ministry, and the assumption is that whatever he is doing it is because Netanyahu wants it.

“The prime/communications minister is highly sensitive to the power of the media and in that context is no doubt looking at Bezeq’s Walla unit, the most-viewed website in Israel after Google and Facebook. Comcast estimates that 7% of Israel web time is spent on Walla sites, more than twice the rate for Ynet. Walla has been friendly to Netanyahu, and Netanyahu is now being friendly to Walla’s owner.”

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