To hunt a killer in a cosmopolitan city
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Hebrew media review

To hunt a killer in a cosmopolitan city

Papers focus on the search for the suspect in a deadly shooting in Tel Aviv, and ruminate on the relationship between Arab Israelis and the Jewish state

Adiv Sterman is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Israelis light candles outside a cafe in Tel Aviv, on January 2, 2016, a day after two people were killed in a shooting there (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Israelis light candles outside a cafe in Tel Aviv, on January 2, 2016, a day after two people were killed in a shooting there (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Security forces’ nerve-racking search for the gunman behind a fatal shooting in central Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street is the most pressing issue on the Hebrew-language media’s agenda Sunday, and with police finally identifying the suspected attacker after nearly 24 hours of withholding his name, the papers delve into the man’s perplexing backstory and disturbing history of violence.

“The hunt,” reads Israel Hayom‘s dramatic headline in a font that recalls the cover of a Stephen King novel or a promotional poster for an ’80s slasher flick. The ghostly font is present throughout the paper above almost every article covering the attack.

The suspected shooter, Nashat Milhem, 29, of Arara — an Arab Israeli village in Wadi Ara in the north — is believed to be armed and dangerous, the newspaper says, quoting security sources.

Israel Hayom places special emphasis on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s harsh words to the Jewish state’s Arab citizens in the wake of the attack, which killed two people and injured seven more. “We all know there is wild incitement by radical Islam in the Arab sector,” the prime minister said during a visit to the site of the shooting on Saturday evening. “I will not accept two nations within Israel: a lawful nation for all its citizens and a (second) nation within a nation for some of its citizens, in pockets of lawlessness,” he added.

Boaz Bismuth, who runs the paper’s foreign coverage, records his experiences as resident of Tel Aviv during the past tension-filled days, and stresses that for all of the city’s cosmopolitan image, it is still linked integrally to the fate of Israel at large, for good and for bad. “On the internet, just like after the terrorism in January against the offices of the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine and the Paris terror attacks in November, an attempt was made to run the slogan ‘I am a Tel Avivian,” Bismuth writes, taking a swipe at the international community, which he constantly criticizes for failing to assign equal weight to all acts of terror. “That did not work… the attack [on Friday] serves as a reminder that the state of Tel Aviv is still an inseparable part of the State of Israel, for whoever forgot, on both sides.”

Yedioth Ahronoth is only slightly more reserved in its coverage of the shooting, showing a blurry image of Milhem alongside the word “Wanted,” which is plastered in red over a photograph of a glass window shattered by gunfire at the scene of the attack. The paper notes that Milhem served a five-year prison term for a 2007 attack on a soldier, and that his brother was taken into custody Saturday as an alleged accomplice to the shooting.

Veteran pundit Ben-Dror Yemini posits that while extremist elements no doubt exist within Israel’s Arab communities, the large majority of the Arab public wholeheartedly rejects any form of violence. “The fact that only very few of Israel’s Arabs have turned to hostile activities, as opposed to demonstrations, is a badge of honor for both Jews and Arabs,” he writes. “The Milhem family, from which the murderer came, represents the majority of Arab Israelis as they condemn and disapprove of [the suspect’s actions].” Yemini is referring to the fact that Milhem’s father was the one to alert police to the identity of the suspected shooter after recognizing his son’s face in a television broadcast. Yemini’s piece, it should be noted, is titled “Bad seeds,” a term used often by religious Zionist and settler leaders in an effort to distance their own ideology from the violent actions committed by some Jewish extremists against Palestinians.

Haaretz dedicates half of its front page to Friday’s attack, but covers several other stories as well. Reporter Or Kashti writes that in response to increased efforts by the Education Ministry to strengthen “religious components” in Israeli school curricula, a group of secular teachers are mulling the establishment of an independent education system. The proposal was raised by members of the “Secular Forum,” a group dedicated to the separation of church and state, and comes following the Education Ministry’s recent announcement that Israeli author Dorit Rabinyan’s “Gader Haya” (translated as “Borderlife” in English) had been rejected for inclusion in the high school curriculum because it could undermine the “separate identities” of Jews and Arabs. According to the report, members of the forum are still contemplating whether to launch a private education system or demand rights as a separate stream within the general Israeli public school system.

And as if not enough bad news were circulating in the media today, Haaretz also reports that contractors working on the fast rail line between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have recently warned that construction tunnels along the site are in immediate danger of collapsing. This oversight, the contractors have said, may not only put the safety of construction workers in serious jeopardy but may also delay the realization of the railway project by a number of years. So, yeah, those long traffic jams on the Ayalon Highway and up the hills leading to Jerusalem might still be there for your next several hundred rides between Tel Aviv and the capital.

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