This week in Israel: ‘Iron Dome’ missile defense protects Ashkelon, Lieberman flushes and prepares for indictment, a train crashes, Justin Bieber gets tangled up, and more
Israel is planning to purchase four new Iron Dome missile defense systems, after two such units recently intercepted eight rockets from the Gaza Strip. It was originally thought the new anti-missile batteries would not be ready for another 18 months or so, but amid fears of a possible two-front war, a rush schedule was put in place, and the first of the new launchers is expected to be deployed in six months. A 15-year-old American boy who made aliyah three years ago was one of several children gathered around the anti-missile system in the Ashkelon area one day this week, in the hope of seeing it in action. “In the U.S. we had snow days at school and here we have missile days,” he said. But defense analyst Reuven Pedatzur said that for all the domestic excitement, the missile defense system is nothing but a “scam,” considering that each Iron Dome missile costs about $100,000 and each Qassam rocket costs about $5.
The sole student aboard the school bus that was hit by an anti-tank rocket last week took a turn for the worse this week. Daniel Wipliech, 16, is in a deep coma and appears to have suffered serious brain damage. “We see no evidence of any brain activity,” said the chief of the pediatric intensive care unit at Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva. Israel says the rocket that hit the bus was manufactured in Russia and made its way to Hamas via Syria and Hezbollah.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman will be indicted for fraud and money-laundering, pending a hearing, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein announced this week. But formal charges could take a while; legal sources predicted that the pre-indictment hearing would take place no sooner than October. Lieberman, who also made news this week for flushing the toilet while being interviewed—Ynet titled the audio clip “Live from the Bathroom” (“Beshidur Hai Mehasherutim”)—said he has no intention of resigning. Israelis are equally divided over whether the charges against Lieberman are justified, with 38 percent saying they are and the same proportion calling the decision a form of “political persecution.” The remainder said they didn’t know.
A few hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasted about finally connecting far-flung regions of Israel by rail, the country suffered its second train wreck in a week. Unlike last Thursday’s accident near Netanya, which lightly injured about 60 people, this week’s incident in the south involved a cargo train and platform cars, and there were no injuries. “It’s starting to be scary to ride the trains,” said a woman who was hurt in the Netanya crash. That story’s fear-mongering headline on Ynet: “Panika al Hapasim” (“Panic on the Tracks”). Over the past four months Israel Railways has sustained millions of shekels in damage to trains and railroad tracks caused by three fires on its trains, in addition to the collisions.
Justin Bieber, who was entangled in politics on his first trip to Israel, got cited in a police complaint when an Israeli freelance photographer claimed the teen idol almost ran him over with a motor scooter. In a two-page spread detailing what it called “blue and white Biebermania,” Yedioth quoted freelance photographer Elad Dayan as saying that as he tried to get a shot of Bieber driving away from a restaurant, the 17-year-old nearly flattened him. (The paper’s rhyming Hebrew headline was “Hahoress Hadoress,” which translates loosely to “The Trampling Stud.”) The photographer’s lawyer is demanding that police investigate “whether Bieber—who is reportedly a minor—even has a driver’s license.” Maybe Justin was just upset because his Israeli ticket sales were so sluggish that the concert manager was giving them away free to parents.
According to the giveaway daily Israel Hayom, Steven Spielberg was sighted in Jerusalem’s Germany Colony this week and apparently plans to attend the screening of The Last Days, his 1998 movie about Hungarian Holocaust survivors, at a May 1 event in Ra’anana commemorating 50 years since the Eichmann Trial. The paper said he is attempting to walk around incognito and has asked his contacts in Israel to keep his visit quiet.
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