1. Triple threat: No mistress is quite as harsh as is timing, that lord of comedy and tragedy. One need only glance at the top stories in Israel to understand the cruel convergences created by man’s slavish commitment to the calendar and clock. As if by script, tensions are exploding in Jerusalem Friday morning, kicking off a weekend warned about for months, when the terrifying trinity of Ramadan, Passover and Easter has been predicted to create a triad of trouble.
- If the holier than thou violence weren’t enough, this weekend of woe comes after three weeks of intensifying conflict in the West Bank, as Israeli forces seek to crack down, following a series of terror attacks inside Israel, sparking clashes, killings and that all-too-familiar cycle of violence.
- “When is the storm coming? Nobody knows. But the weather is bad,” dissident Fatah activist Samer Sinijlawi tells ToI’s Aaron Boxerman.
- Well, Samer, I hope you are happy to now have your answer: Friday. Israeli media is awash in reports ahead of Passover of clashes on the Temple Mount. While videos filter through on social media showing heavily armed border police all over the Temple Mount clashing with firework-shooting and rock-throwing Palestinian worshippers, Israeli officials on social media and non-social media attempt to get their own messaging out.
- “Contrary to FAKE reports, police forces DID NOT enter the mosque,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry tweets in English, along with a video showing people inside the al-Aqsa Mosque throwing stones at unseen targets.
- “Rioters waved Hamas flags and threw stones at cops. In order not to harm freedom of worship, we waited until they finished praying, and then we went into [the compound] in order to disperse the rioters,” senior traffic cop Eliyahu Levy tells Army Radio (likely while holding a short straw in his hand).
- Yet even if we make it through this weekend alive, media pundits still see signs that the security situation is in a tailspin. In Haaretz, Amos Harel writes (albeit without showing any evidence) that Palestinian attackers are no longer just from the lone-wolf camp.
- “Terrorist organizations are also starting to get into the picture,” he writes.
- And even worse, expert Michael Milshtein tells him, terrorists today aren’t messing around with screwdrivers or switchblades. Now they’ve got guns. “The vast quantity of combat materiel in the territories and among Arabs in Israel means that the weapons are available to almost everyone – and raises the blood price that is exacted in terror attacks,” Harel writes.
- Channel 12 reports that Israel could escalate things as well, quoting an unnamed defense force warning that a sequel nobody wants may be coming to a battle theater near all of us. “If there’s an escalation tomorrow and there are injuries, we could reach Guardian of the Walls 2,” the source says, referring to Israel’s war with Gaza in May. Better buckle up.
2. Even a broken clock: If things had gone Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s way, the front pages of Friday’s paper would feature his stern, yet friendly, mug, alongside some killer quote like “Happy Passover.” But Bennett had to pre-empt a traditional holiday softball-fest with a media blitz on Tuesday as he attempted to head off a growing coalition crisis. Darn timing again.
- So instead of Bennett, two of Israel’s three main daily newspapers lead off with stories about the failures that allowed an alleged terrorist to remain on the loose for three years.
- “The botched release of the Islamic State terrorist,” reads the top headline in Yedioth Ahronoth, alongside a picture of the couple Wasim a-Sayed allegedly killed.
- Well, on the loose is not exactly correct, as Israel seems to have a habit of arresting the guy for everything but terrorist murders. He was arrested two days after killing the Kaduri couple in 2019, and served 2.5 years in jail, mostly in administrative detention. He then got out just long enough to kill a Moldovan worker, before being arrested again, this time for crossing the West Bank barrier with a knife.
- “A badge of shame upon the police,” reads a headline of an Israel Hayom column by Itzik Saban that is partially copy and pasted from the police’s own statement on the case.
- The case is one “the police can exalt in,” he writes in one part, presumably his own. After all, “it’s pretty rare for all the lights to be blinking red and nobody paying attention.” Burn.
- Walla interviews the lucky coppers who bagged the big fish: “He seemed tired to us and looked like he had walked a long way, he couldn’t manage to resist. Any threatening move from him could have gotten him a bullet. We catch a lot of terrorists and illegals here,” one of them says, before throwing in a bit of casual racism that Walla saw fit to make its headline. “He was pretty clean and put together, for an illegal.”
- “I knew it was a terror attack,” the mother of a girl who a-Sayed allegedly grabbed but failed to seriously hurt a day before allegedly killing the Kaduris tells Channel 12 news. The channel toots its own horn as well, noting that in 2019, it “reported exclusively that there was dramatic progress in the case — most of which is still under gag order. According to the report at the time, the estimation was that the motive was nationalistic.” Bold move, Channel 12, considering that police who likely had access to your exclusive gagged information themselves admitted to hitting dead-ends in the case in 2020 and 2021.
3. Good luck getting away: Bad timing is also being blamed for chaos at Israel’s airports. And if there’s any story that attracts Israeli journalists like Elijah the Prophet to a free cup of wine, its Airport Horror Stories.
- “This is a view from a security camera at Ben-Gurion Airport,” Kan journalist Sharon Idan tweets, with a picture showing the check-in packed like a can of gefilte fish. “Crowding like this hasn’t been seen in a long time.”
ככה נראית מצלמת האבטחה בנתב״ג. עומס כזה לא זוכרים הרבה זמן. pic.twitter.com/TvEXimng1W
— Sharon Idan | שרון עידן (@sharonidan) April 14, 2022
- Channel 12 news notes that the crush is common to many airports, placing the onus on spring break in the US and elsewhere, Passover, the end of many pandemic restrictions, and the labor shortage.
- But that’s not all. “There’s the problem of recruiting airport staff, and in addition, a large part of the airport is earmarked for the Health Ministry, and that affects the crowding,” Kobi Mor, a former head of Israel’s airport authority, tells Army Radio. “What worries me is next Passover. Expansion work on the airport was frozen because of the coronavirus, it needs to be speeded up.”
- Bless ’em for trying though. Haaretz reports that “in order to keep the airport afloat, workers gave up their holiday vacations, retirees were brought in and airport director Shmuel Zakai arrived at work at 3 A.M. each day to help with security checks for the exhausted travelers. However, the massive manpower shortage and long waits at check-in counters due to COVID have made this mission close to impossible.”
- Zakai admits to the paper that the airport didn’t plan for crowds of this magnitude. “We didn’t anticipate the sudden increase in numbers; we thought it would be a much more gradual recovery from COVID,” he’s quoted as saying.
- For those who want to get away but would rather skip the lines, the Sinai peninsula’s deep blue seas await Israelis just across the Taba border crossing, and hotels there are pulling out all the stops for what is predicted to be a massive rebound in tourism, ToI’s long-lost Mel Lidman reports.
- “Starting in 2016, Israeli tourism to Sinai started to climb steadily, almost doubling between 2017 and 2019, according to the Interior Ministry. Many beaches popular among Israelis rushed to build more huts and more amenities for the growing number of guests,” she writes. “So when coronavirus lockdowns wreaked havoc on other tourism-based economies around the globe, many beach camp owners took advantage of the lull to continue expanding for guests they knew would return.”
- One hotel, New Moon Island, has gone beyond “the usual Sinai husha, a simple bamboo hut on the beach,” she writes, with air-conditioned rooms and flush toilets.
- “You have to always keep moving with the circle of trends, you can’t stop the circle,” manager Farag Ode tells her. “Some camps have stopped and don’t move with the trends, and they don’t have work. Those that moved with the trends, they have work.”