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Offbeat Israel: Repentance From Beyond the Grave

We’re in the run-up to Rosh Hashanah, which is the traditional time of the Jewish year for righting wrongs. And there can be no stranger story on this theme than that of repentance from beyond the grave.

On August 20, Israeli actor and TV personality Dudu Topaz committed suicide in the Ramle prison cell where he had been held for the preceding three months. He had been charged with — and confessed to — hiring thugs to attack network bosses whom he accused of ditching him in favor of reality television shows.

The aftermath of the suicide was ugly. His brother and his attorneys lashed out at the media’s roll in his downfall. The attorneys said that the media had run a campaign to turn him “from human to sub-human.” His brother told journalists to “look at yourselves in the mirror.”

Now, in an odd post-script, it seems that Topaz (pictured right) had become a penitent. But even more strangely, not — as far as we know — for his alleged crime, but for hurting a politician’s feelings.

It turns out that Topaz and Ahmad Tibi, head of the Arab-nationalist party Ta’al, had met before Topaz’s arrest and spoken about hopes for reconciliation between their communities. Then during the Operation Cast Lead — Israel’s operation in Gaza last winter — Topaz wrote a blog entry criticizing Tibi for his objections to the war.

So, sitting in his cell eleven days before his suicide, the man who had confessed to ordering brutal attacks on TV executives Avi Nir and Shira Margalit and on actors’ agent Boaz Ben-Zion set about apologizing — actually for the second time — for upsetting the man who may well be Israel’s most hated politician. (Tibi, former advisor to Yasser Afarat, is despised by many Jewish Israelis for his alleged disloyalty to his country). Tibi only just got the letter.

It said:

After a long process of soul searching while here in prison, I find the need to apologize to you again for the nonsense I have said about you, for my arrogance, and for hurting you.

Staying on a morbid theme, the media here is buzzing about a new art exhibit which was due to open today with pictures of seven female suicide bombers being depicted as Madonna holding a baby Jesus. Following a barrage of criticism the pictures were pulled from the exhibit.. One of the artists, Galina Bleich, has been quoted defending the pictures. “We are trying to ask how a woman, who is meant to love and give birth, became a source of hatred and murder,” she told Israeli media.

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