columnIsrael at War

A tale of two traffic jams

While many Israelis willingly got held up in traffic for Shani Louk, few take kindly to bumper-to-bumper diktats imposed by Shikma Bressler.

Traffic on the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv, Jan. 23, 2023. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
Traffic on the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv, Jan. 23, 2023. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
Ruthie Blum. Photo by Ariel Jerozolomski.
Ruthie Blum
Ruthie Blum, former adviser at the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is an award-winning columnist and senior contributing editor at JNS, as well as co-host, with Amb. Mark Regev, of "Israel Undiplomatic" on JNS-TV. She writes and lectures on Israeli politics and culture, and on U.S.-Israel relations. Originally from New York City, she moved to Israel in 1977 and is based in Tel Aviv.

Hours before his daughter Shani’s funeral on Sunday afternoon, Nissim Louk warned viewers of Channel 14’s “This Morning in Israel” program about the likelihood of massive traffic on the way to the burial site near the family home in Srigim. Since tens of thousands of people were expected to arrive to pay their respects, he realized that the roads would be seriously congested.

Asked whether he was recommending a smaller turnout, the bereaved parent answered that it was a matter of personal choice. His reply was gracious.

Since Friday, when it was announced that Shani was among the three (which turned out later to be four) dead hostages retrieved from Gaza in a joint Israel Defense Forces-Shin Bet operation, he’d been urging the public to attend the ceremony. The request was unnecessary.

The beautiful 23-year-old became an international household name in the immediate aftermath of the Oct. 7 massacre. The young woman rose to unwitting fame due to a photo of her twisted, half-naked body being hauled off to Gaza on a pickup truck filled with gleeful Hamas terrorists.

Though the Louks were informed months ago that Shani was already dead in that vile picture, which would come to win a prestigious award, her return from Hamas captivity provided some solace. And it gave them the opportunity to lay her properly to rest in their vicinity.

Still, Nissim’s empathy with the plight of drivers was behind his mentioning the probability of blocked highways in the lead-up to the highly publicized event. This isn’t surprising, given his unfathomably honorable behavior during the 230 days that have elapsed since the Black Sabbath when monsters snuffed out his child’s life and kidnapped her corpse for sport—and leverage.

While calling for societal unity in the face of the evil that infiltrated the Jewish state seven months ago, he repeatedly insisted that no IDF soldier be put at risk in order to find and bring back her body. He also welcomed the juxtaposition of the image of Shani exuding “light” at the Nova festival with the “darkness” illustrated in the picture of her abduction.

Contrast Nissim Louk’s attitude with that of professor Shakma Bresler. Among the main leaders of last year’s protests against the then-newly instated government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—ostensibly over its plans to reform the judiciary—Bressler put a temporary lid on her megaphone.

Apparently, the gang rapes, mass murder and hostage-taking on Oct. 7 caused even an obsessive activist like herself to pause. Well, that, and the fact that all judicial reform moves were quashed as soon as the government she hadn’t given up on toppling became preoccupied with defeating the Palestinian perpetrators in Gaza.

But good old Bressler’s back in business with a vengeance. And her preferred method, as it was during the so-called “Kaplan demonstrations,” is road-blocking.

Hitchhiking on the desperation of the families of the remaining hostages in Gaza, she’s heading a demonstration, dubbed “returning the mandate to the people,” which involves slow-moving motorcades.

Slated to start at 8 a.m. on Monday, the vehicular march will leave from 11 points around the country and head for the Knesset. The ETA for the whine-fest on wheels is noon. Its purpose—you guessed it—is to oust Netanyahu.

No wonder she and her fellow leftists were buoyed by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s speech on Wednesday night. In his public address, the War Cabinet member—from Netanyahu’s party—called on the prime minister to “declare that Israel will not establish civilian control over the Gaza Strip; that Israel will not establish military governance in the Gaza Strip; and that a governing alternative to Hamas in the Gaza Strip will be raised immediately.”

He also asserted that “the ‘day after Hamas’ will only be achieved with Palestinian entities taking control of Gaza—accompanied by international actors—establishing a governing alternative to Hamas’s rule.”

“Gallant removed all doubt,” Bressler said on Saturday night, as though she’d ever harbored any. “Netanyahu is dragging Israel into another disaster, and all for personal motives.”

As someone with heaps of “personal motives” herself, she ought to know. One thing the rest of us figured out long ago is that she doesn’t give a hoot about the country she professes to wish to save; certainly not for the people who live in it. But, then, she’s a scientist at the Weizmann Institute, so she probably has a flexible work schedule, unlike the commuters with regular jobs whose lives will be totally disrupted.

The good news is that while many Israelis willingly got held up in traffic to weep for Shani Louk, few take kindly to having bumper-to-bumper diktats imposed on them by the likes of Shikma Bressler.   

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