Legends of the fallen: What the press is saying on November 26

1. God handeth, God taketh away: The death of soccer star Diego Maradona hits hard in Israel, with the press sparing little ink in honoring the late, great master of the pitch.

  • News of the death was important enough for Channel 12 to break in to its normal early evening cable news style segments, and quickly garnered condolences and remembrances from politicians, sports figures, journalists and others.
  • The same picture of Maradona celebrating during better times — specifically after winning the 1986 World Cup with a little help from the hand of God — graces the front pages of Israel’s major dailies as they pay tribute to the Argentine striker, with superlatives aplenty (and a dose of snotty “everyone saw this coming” – type commentary).
  • “The legend is no more: Thank you Diego,” reads a front page headline in Israel Hayom.
  • “Maradona was larger than life,” writes Aviad Pohorils for the paper, noting that some considered him a god.
  • “His face wasn’t just some composite of features, but a symbol, like John Kennedy or Castro or the Dalai Lama. Over the years we’ve seen a lot of great soccer players, even extraordinary phenoms. But he, like two or three others, will forever be — no matter what happens in the future, one of the three greatest soccer players in history,” he adds, assuming we know who the other two are. (This American is not sure.)
  • “Maradona was a huge star, the biggest in the world of soccer,” writes Yedioth’s Raz Shechnik. “He was a charismatic magician with the ball. A man that we all dreamt of being when we played on the asphalt, long before we knew he could never really be a role model.”
  • That nostalgia also leaks through a piece in Haaretz by Alon Idan, who writes that his 1986 victory “brought all the millions of tired, exhausted, balding, overweight adults back to their childhoods, to the neighborhoods, to the schoolyards. He returned them to those few magical moments before they fell asleep, those moments when everything was still possible, those moments in those forgotten days when it was still possible to dream.”
  • Kan runs a column by Yoav Borovitch in which he tells of first encountering Messi in the early 80s, but also notes his later years when, as he writes, he became a “hostage” of the Naples mafia, which plied him with drugs, women and parties.
  • “The beauty that was in Diego was too big and really too strong to be contained within his body. And his body did not just suffer endless injuries, but addiction to cocaine, alcohol and painkillers,” he writes. “Maradona died a weak and broken mad who looked old and sad.”
  • Channel 12 notes that legendary singer Arik Einstein, who died seven years ago today, was a huge soccer fan and included Maradona in his soccer song “These are the names.”
  • “Somewhere up there, seven years after he found his place in heaven, the two are surely meeting now. One tall and one short, one from Tel Aviv and the other from Buenos Aires, but two geniuses in their fields,” writes Avishai Sela.

2. The deal goal of the century: Israelis may have loved Maradona, but he didn’t necessarily love them back.

  • He visited Israel at least twice, in 1986 and 1994, for friendly matches, but later in life became an outspoken proponent for the Palestinians, telling PA President Mahmoud Abbas at one point that he was Palestinian in his heart.
  • ToI notes that in 2014, “it was briefly rumored that Maradona was in negotiations with the Palestinian Football Association over the possibility of coaching the Palestinian national team during the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, though that never materialized.”
  • “I am the number one fan of the Palestinian people,” it quotes him saying. “I respect them and sympathize with them.”
  • Right-wing Channel 20 also recalls the quote, in a story under a headline describing him as a “Soccer legend, drug addict and anti-Israel.”
  • Radio station 103FM highlights the complaints of a caller who was annoyed at what he termed a “leftist media festival” in support of Maradona: “Maradona did not like Israel, he was a supporter of Ahmadinejad, they’re making him into a hero.”
  • But Israelis’ love for Maradona, and memories of his visits, supersede any unfriendly statements he may have made, which garner little mention in most of the mainstream press.
  • Army Radio replays a 1986 interview between Ilana Dayan (a legend of Israeli journalism in her own right) and Maradona.
  • “He was like a rock star,” player Alon Hazan, who faced off against him that year, tells the station. “The whole time we were peering down the tunnel to see when the big star would emerge. When he came out, the crowd went insane, and we also looked up to him more than we did our coach.”
  • JTA’s Ron Kampeas tweets his own Maradona memory regarding Israel’s obsession with the soccer player.

3. Apres Maradona, le deluge: Israel’s central and southern coastal regions are flooding for the second time in the week as a large (by local standards) rainstorm blows into the region.

  • Photos and videos published and shared by various Hebrew media outlets show cars half submerged and roads turned into raging rivers in Tel Aviv and some suburbs, as well as further south along the coast and Judean lowlands and north in Nahariya, which was hit by deadly flooding less than a year ago.
  • A woman rescued from the Herzliya train station tells Channel 12 that “the whole tunnel was filled with water and it was impossible to get out. They warned us not to leave the station. Luckily, an inflatable raft with firefighters saved us … They didn’t tell us the morning would look like this. All the days of my life I’ve never seen rain like this.”
  • A resident of a flooded street in nearby Hod Hasharon tells Ynet that “all the roads are flooded, it looks like Venice.”
  • Kan publishes video of a bus trying to ford the brand new river running through Hod Hasharon, as well as flooding in the suddenly appropriately named Lakes neighborhood of Ashkelon.
  • A picture of a man wading through Hod Hasharon flooding is identified by journalists as Mayor Amir Kochavi. “Moses didn’t look as determined before he crossed the Red Sea,” gushes twitter personality Eran Cherpak.
  • A senior rescue official tells Army Radio that the Fire and Rescue service has “learned a lot,” since last winter, when two people were killed after becoming trapped in a South Tel Aviv elevator that then flooded.
  • “We have dozens of reports of people scared by flooding. All the incidents are under control, with no fear of loss of life,” he says.
  • But several reports note that more rain is expected later in the day, with the storms moving inland and north, leading to fears of desert flash floods.
  • Not that it even takes so much rain to bring the country to its knees. Yedioth’s Shechnik tweets a picture from just as the rain started to wreak havoc on the power grid showing a traffic jam for the ages at a Tel Aviv intersection where the lights went out.
  • And Channel 13 reports it’s not only the rain, with the Electric Corporation reporting a 1,664 percent uptick in lightning strikes from Wednesday afternoon to Thursday morning, compared to the daily average in November.

4. Hanukkah without Harry: While some countries are planning on easing lockdown rules for Christmas, Yedioth reports that there are no such plans in Israel for Christmas, Novi God or Hanukkah.

  • The paper reports that various celebrations and events planned for Hanukkah will only take place in digital format this year, and recently reopened schools may dispense with the traditional winter break over the holiday.
  • Plus it notes that health officials are especially worried about family gatherings, quoting health sources saying that allowing them could end up leading to a third lockdown — a favorite threat of theirs.
  • “Given the fact that the winter is already here, the dangers of Hanukkah celebrations with many participants are much higher. Inside a closed home, with the option of meeting outside less relevant, any gathering could be fertile ground for infection.”
  • At the same time, outgoing deputy Health Ministry director Itamar Grotto tells the paper that “there are no plans for a lockdown over Hanukkah,” though if it looks like infection numbers are going up, they will push for one.
  • Being alone for the holidays is tough, as is being alone any time. Psychologist Dan Sacks tells Army Radio that “when we are in isolation, we take our thoughts too hard and let scenarios run away in our heads to their ends — it can be very scary. There are people whose whole life experience will change after isolation, like a self-employed person who sees his business fall apart while he is stuck at home. This is trauma for life.”
  • Catheryn Prince writes for ToI that kids are among those suffering the worst mental effects of the pandemic.
  • “The most intense kind of trauma is the kind when you can’t physically escape; you’re trapped in a burning car for example,” says Dr. Robyn Koslowitz, a clinical psychologist and founder of the Targeted Parenting Institute. “Is COVID like that? We don’t know. We only know there will be long term effects for everyone… You will not go back to your old selves because there’s going to be a new version of yourself at the end of this. The same goes for kids.”
  • Haaretz tells the tale of three young women who ended up taking matters into their own hands, with a project providing food and other services for the needy turning them into a replacement for Israel’s welfare system, which they now realize cannot cope with demand.
  • “At first, we thought the systems would assume control of things at any moment and that each of us could return to the life she used to have,” one of the women says, describing how she realized that they were the solution. “I heard about a family [that came] from the Congo that hadn’t eaten for five days. Four people heard about them before me, and nobody stopped for a moment to buy food for them. Everyone thought there was someone whose job it is to take care of such cases. Everyone thought that there’s a welfare state here that supports its weak communities.”

5. Go ahead, have a mall: At least malls are opening, or rather some of them, as part of a pilot program for those itching for consumerism.

  • A total of 15 malls will be chosen for the program, and Walla reports that a compromise agreement means that nine of the malls will be chosen by lottery, with the other six being large malls around the country chosen by an association of mall operators. The lottery was necessitated by “legal difficulties that arose due to the fact that choosing the 15 could harm the fairness” of the program.
  • Channel 12 reports that the malls are expected to be open as soon as Friday, just in time for Israel’s version of the biggest shopping day of the year.
  • But apparently that’s not soon enough. Israel Hayom reports that a sellers association accused the Health Ministry of “sticking a spoke in the wheels and leaving half a million unemployed people at home. The ministry’s behavior is unclear, illogical and debased. This pilot should have been launched days ago.”
  • Kan’s Shaul Amsterdamski writes that the whole country could just go back to normal, if we simply up the number of tests to a cool million a day, just a tad above the 40,000 it currently averages.
  • “If we up it a bit to a million, that will mean that the average Israeli will be getting tested once a week, and if that’s the situation, we would know really well where the virus is and who needs to isolate, and everyone else could do pretty much whatever they want,” he writes.
  • But an uncharacteristically cheery Gabi Barbash, a former health ministry head, writes for Channel 12 that Israel may be out of the woods even without upping our testing numbers twentyfold, thanks to the vaccine train on its way.
  • “The news of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are real tidings. It shows the endpoint of the coronavirus pandemic. This point is located somewhere around the end of 2021,” he writes.

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