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OUT OF PERSPECTIVE

Not the headline news

By David Arkin

I am fairly certain most local newspapers circulated in towns and cities around the world contain the same type of content: loads of sponsored adverts for local businesses, interspersed with arbitrary community news about municipal services, schools, sport, culture and even crime. In the case of Israel, I can say there is almost a complete disconnect from the National headline news to what is reported in one’s local paper, that I often find it so mundane to believe it is the same country. So what follows is a sample of some top local stories, as recently reported in Raanana’s weekly paper, which did not make the headline news.

There’s nothing like a good fight over municipal budgets to grab headlines. Opposition counsellors objected to 8.5 million shekels allocated to upgrading public parks rather than paving bicycle paths along a busy road.
 
A quote from the newspaper: “Children will learn to drive spaceships before being able to ride safely”.
 
In 2017, revenues from parking fines increased by 1.0 million shekels to 7.5 million shekels because of “lack of parking spaces” in the city. Parking is free for all residents throughout the city with a valid parking sticker, so I am assuming this increase was mostly all paid by visitors or workers coming into the city. I couldn’t see the problem here? I’ve been fined countless times in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Apparently, much to the chagrin of the opposition, revenues from shows in the Amphitheatre in the park have been declining, as residents travel into neighbouring Herzliya to enjoy concerts and the like there instead.
 
Then there was the coverage about the demonstration of animal right activists in the city centre on a recent Friday late-morning. I actually happened to walk pass it on the way to buying challot, amid chants against eating meat, eggs and milk, whilst most patrons of the street-side cafés looked on in amusement (as they sipped their cappuccinos). The article claimed the point of the demo was to raise awareness of animals suffering. Judging by the noise the activists made, their point was made.

One cover story was devoted to the passing of an elderly Holocaust survivor, Esther, who never married or had children. Very sadly, she passed away exactly a week after her only relative, a younger sister, had died. Her neighbours rallied on social networks for volunteers to attend her funeral and visit the shiva house during the week in order to recite Kaddish for her. There were so many people that a shiva gemach lent out chairs, tables and a tent for all the visitors to her apartment, and many people donated food or money for food during the shiva week. She may have lived almost anonymously, but it was poignant touch and mark of respect of the editor to put Esther on the cover page.

Public transport and the pending opening of the Raanana train station seem to be a recurring story. The actual station has been completed for a while now, but because Raanana is to join the existing Tel Aviv circuit on a circular line, there was uncertainty as to which direction the line would initially open (either joining the existing Hod Hasharon/Kfar Saba line for a pedestrian 40 minute ride or travelling towards Herzliya for an 11 minute express ride into Tel Aviv). To add to the complexity of the logistics, shuttles from around the city are planned to reach the station as the car park isn’t expected to be nearly large enough to cater for the expected demand. Anyhow, the mayor said to diarise 1 July 2018 as the day of grand the opening for the long route, while the shorter route will only be opened in 2019.
 
News about the Histadrut is usually to do with striking workers on a national scale. Membership is down since the glory days of the 1980’s when there was an 80% rate of unionisation in Israel. It has been stagnant at less than 25% for some years.
 
With every newly organised worker, three existing members retire, forcing the unions to go on a membership drive and enter new sectors. Ehe enterprise software and applications giant, SAP has its Israeli headquarters in Raanana. Last year the company was the first to sign a comprehensive agreement to regulate workers’ rights in the hi-tech industry, though I’m not sure any more hi-tech firms have followed the lead to date.

Local papers, being community-oriented, generally are apolitical and non-sectorial, though one does wander as to the quality of the journalism behind some of the reporting. When a national survey of transparency in municipalities was published, Raanana was in a credible 3rd place overall. Only Kiryat Bialik and neighbour’s Kfar Saba were ahead and scored higher on the survey. Now, in August last year, the mayor of Kfar Saba was indicted for fraud and theft of municipal funds, so I doubt as to the transparency of the transparency survey.

From December last year, municipal traffic wardens have authority to fine electric bike violations. Israeli towns and cities have become a mecca for E-Bikes, particularly amongst teenagers, a tribute mainly to the incredible mobility and freedom teens and children have in this country. Apparently they now have the authority to fine for reckless driving, driving with a phone in hand, and driving with an additional passenger.
 
These bikes can travel up to 32 km/h, and the use of helmets is often disregarded. Having avoided crashing into these E-bikes on several occasions, I am the first to cheer for these wardens being given powers of traffic police, though I am yet to see any fines being meted out.

Bottom-line: my fervent wish is that more of this local news would make the headline news each day.