The Rose Parade

In the absence of rational criteria, the "Rose affair" has turned into a tasteless national exhibition of voyeurism, intrusion, gossip and self-righteousness with only a loose connection to the fate of the girl from France.

The truth must be told: Our patience has run out, like the waters of the Yarkon that the police considered drying out. The searches of the muddy river broadcast live on the Internet and in a constant loop on television, the interminable scrutiny of the annals of the Ron-Pizem family, backed up by a whole army of experts on rivers, sludge, diving, children, parents, grandparents, sex, psychology, police and religious law - all this has dragged us down into the mud as well.

In the absence of rational criteria, the "Rose affair" has turned into a tasteless national exhibition of voyeurism, intrusion, gossip and self-righteousness with only a loose connection to the fate of the girl from France. "We weren't there for Rose in her hour of need," Public Security Minister Avi Dichter blubbered, as if to justify the corrective response that followed: This past week has been all-Rose, all the time, with barely any respite.

As usual, it's a matter of proportion, a characteristic whose absence in the Israeli public debate is constantly growing. The story of a little girl who disappeared and was apparently murdered by her grandfather, who is also her stepfather, is of course a shocking one. It must receive significant coverage, and every possible avenue of relevant information must be pursued. But our coverage of Rose is grossly exaggerated.

Hundreds of column inches, infinite airtime, a sea of words have been devoted to the story. It was initially under a strict gag order, and then - as if to make up for the lost days during which the case was kept from the public eye - we were flooded by a tsunami of reports, commentaries, interviews, analyses and evaluations, some of them pointless and others completely baseless.

Rose is not the first girl to be murdered by her parents. Eli Pimstein drowned his 2-year-old daughter Hodaya in a bathtub. Yisrael Walz shook to death his 3-month-old son Raphael. Sharon Cohen murdered his toddler son Yiftach on the grounds of the hotel where he was manager. Levy Lalik murdered his daughter, Michal, when she was 2 months old, and just this weekend a mother from Rishon Letzion drowned her 4-year-old son at a Bat Yam beach.

None of these other cases - all of which were no less horrifying than that of Rose - received this kind of inflated media attention. Why? Voyeurism, that's all. Let's just admit it, we are covering the case from top to bottom only because of the extraordinary familial circumstances of the Ron-Pizems. And that means the issue is cheap gossip, not genuine concern for the little girl's welfare. Enough of this self-righteousness.

Make no mistake, the story sells and it sells well. It has all the ingredients of a good story: a family arrangement that "deviates" from accepted norms; a great-grandmother in the role of savior; the mystery of a murder with no body; a central-casting suspect with an evil face; a thriller, with fruitless searches in muddy water; the horror of a little girl's body in a red suitcase, rather than a red dress.

But in Israel, we don't settle for juicy facts: Under the hypocritical cover of concern for the welfare of this child, and all children, a plague of experts and commentators has descended - never a moment is without Rose. They offer advice on what to tell our children, how to act with the neighbors' children in the future, what punishment is fitting for the murderer and how to search for a body in a river.

One psychiatrist declared that grandfather/stepfather Ronny Ron is a "sociopath," without ever having met him. The head of a family therapy center suggested turning off the television so children can't see the coverage, or explaining that their own grandfathers are better than Ronny. A top PR agent recommended executing Ronny. "I couldn't stand idly by," the [volunteer] diver said, while the head of the Yarkon River Authority explained that the searches were being conducted in the Ayalon River, not the Yarkon.

The lowest point came when sexologist Iris Bar-On made the rounds of the television news studios to describe, with obvious enthusiasm, the couples therapy she provided to Marie-Charlotte and Ronny. "You know, Rafi, there wasn't the slightest, not even the slightest symptom that something like that could happen, not the tiniest," Bar-On told the presenter. She also acted inappropriately, exceeding her professional qualifications, when she suggested that the parents "find a framework for the girl." As a result they ended their visits to her questionable clinic.

What have we learned from this? That Marie-Charlotte and Ronny needed sex therapy - maybe his performance wasn't perfect, maybe hers. But why in hell do we have to hear that the couple needed the services of a sexologist? What does that contribute to solving the mystery? And what about professional ethics?

Rose has not yet been found. We can fear for her fate, society can be concerned for its children, we can discuss what can be done to prevent such horrors in future, even if there is little value in doing so. But when the Rose mystery turns into the Rose Parade, the soul begins to weary of all that yellow rose.