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Israelis rush to help after Hamas attacks


As the Israel-Hamas war grinds into its second month, extraordinary scenes are taking place in both Israel and the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces, who claim that Hamas is using hospitals as cover, are closing in around those northern Gaza hospitals, where doctors are so short on supplies that they're operating without anesthesia. Meanwhile, in Israeli cities, volunteers from various walks of life are coming together to get donations to families displaced by the deadly Hamas attacks on October 7, as well as to soldiers who raced off to war. NPR's Peter Kenyon has been following these volunteers and joins us now from Jerusalem. Peter, what have you been hearing?

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Well, everyone's watching the Israeli military strikes, which are continuing, and the problems that's causing at the hospitals in Gaza. And meanwhile, on the other side, Hamas is still claiming it's got plenty of weapons, can keep this going for some time to come. There's a sense here in Israel that people are deeply unhappy with the hard-line government, and yet there's, at the same time, a big determination to support the war effort. So I went to visit a donation operation here in Jerusalem. Here's what I found.

In a multistory building in Jerusalem, a room filled with people and laptops is humming with activity. They're tracking the donations that arrive each day and figuring out where each one will do the most good out in the field. I met Rachel Goldberg (ph). She's a nurse by training, and she came here in hopes of helping to ease the suffering of others in this difficult time.

RACHEL GOLDBERG: You know, we're going through a big crisis. We need to hold hands together until this war is over. My husband is also here. He's a professor at Hebrew University. He's a brain scientist, and we're trying to help.

DETROW: Rachel and her husband, professor of neuroscience Josh Goldberg, both begin by telling a reporter they have four children, three of whom are currently serving in the military. He says he doesn't want to get political, but it was pretty clear that in the early days, the government was, quote, "hard to find," and various organizations have stepped in to pick up the slack, even some who had spent months protesting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's push for so-called judicial reform, widely seen as an effort to weaken the Israeli judiciary.

JOSH GOLDBERG: In fact, many of the protest organizations have already been mobilized to protest this government had the infrastructure and the manpower to actually quickly shift and pivot into another mode of activity, and that's what we've been seeing.

KENYON: In fact, it can be seen just down the hall, where one of the leaders of those protests is also busy connecting donations with people who need them.

MICHAL MUSZKAT-BARKAN: My name is Michal Muszkat-Barkan. I'm a professor of Jewish education in regular days, and for the last 10 months, I'm one of the leaders of the protest.

KENYON: Barkan says it wasn't at all difficult to convince her fellow protesters to join the effort to assist those dealing with the Hamas attack. She says soldiers who raced to the war may need material goods like warm clothing. Displaced civilians, she says, may also need social and emotional counseling.

MUSZKAT-BARKAN: We face now a crisis that never happened in Israel. It's following a crisis of us feeling that our democracy is in danger, but now we are really in a time that we need to bring all our hearts and abilities.

DETROW: Reporting from Peter Kenyon in Jerusalem. So, Peter, you hear that she was protesting before, and now she's helping, you know, these broader organization efforts. Has this crisis brought her any closer to the government?

KENYON: Well, no. She has watched Netanyahu name hard-line hawks to his new war cabinet. She feels quite depressed about that. And this kind of sentiment is being heard in many parts of the country. And Netanyahu's approval ratings have plummeted. Analysts say, barring some political miracle, he's likely to be out of office at the next election. But despite the very strong political feelings, Barkan and others here say it feels good to be helping.


KENYON: She may not be a fan of this government, but she does love her country.

DETROW: NPR's Peter Kenyon in Jerusalem, thanks so much.

KENYON: Thanks, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.

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