Daniel Estrin | WCAI

Daniel Estrin

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.

Since joining NPR in 2017, he has reported from Israel, Gaza, the West Bank, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. He has chronicled the Trump Administration's policies that have shaped the region, and told stories of everyday life for Israelis and Palestinians. He has also uncovered tales of ancient manuscripts, secret agents and forbidden travel.

Estrin has reported from the Middle East for over a decade, including seven years with the Associated Press. His reporting has taken him to Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Jordan, Russia and Ukraine. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The New Republic, PRI's The World and other media.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Some devout Orthodox Jewish communities have been slow to follow lockdown orders in Israel, helping drive a surge in coronavirus cases that officials are struggling to contain.

Known in Israel as Haredim, or those who tremble in awe before God, ultra-Orthodox Jews make up about 12% of Israel's population — but they account for as much as 60% of Israel's COVID-19 cases in major hospitals, according to estimates. More than 6,000 Israelis have been infected and at least 31 have died.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

A political twist in Israel may help the embattled prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, stay in power.

After three inconclusive elections, the right wing Netanyahu and his centrist rival Benny Gantz are reportedly close to a deal to rotate as prime minister, with Netanyahu taking the first turn.

As COVID-19 spreads through Israeli and Palestinian communities, Israelis and Palestinians now have a common enemy to battle — and reason to lean on each other.

The coronavirus has infected more than 2,000 Israelis and killed at least eight, including a man who survived the Holocaust. In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, it has infected more than 70 Palestinians and killed a Palestinian woman. At least nine Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip are infected with the virus, too. Everyone is under increasingly stringent lockdowns.

A Holocaust survivor is the first reported fatality in Israel from COVID-19.

Israeli media report that 88-year-old Arie Even moved from Hungary to Israel in 1949. He died Friday.

He was one of several residents and staff at a retirement home in Jerusalem to catch the coronavirus, after a social worker reportedly caught the virus from a French visitor at a wedding.

His family said they were saddened not to be able to be with him during his final days. They were asked to stay away in order to not catch the virus.

Hundreds of Israelis were startled Wednesday by an unsolicited text message.

"Hello. According to an epidemiological investigation," it began, addressing each recipient by name. "You were near someone sick with the coronavirus. You must immediately isolate at home [14 days] to protect your relatives and the public. ... This information will be used only for this purpose and will be erased when no longer needed. Sincerely, public health services."

In a setback for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's president said Sunday he will give centrist retired army general Benny Gantz the first chance to try to form a new government following this month's inconclusive elections.

Gantz was tapped after a majority of 61 lawmakers in the 120-member Parliament told President Reuven Rivlin they support Gantz over Netanyahu. A coalition of Arab parties, including a staunchly Palestinian nationalist faction, decisively helped tip the scales by unanimously endorsing Gantz.

The U.S. military has launched a formal investigation into claims of civilian casualties during the U.S. raid against ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a military spokesman told NPR.

The investigation was prompted by an NPR report about a Syrian farmer who said his arm was blown off and his two friends were killed by U.S. helicopter fire in the village where American special forces were attacking Baghdadi's compound in October.

Updated on March 4 at 1 p.m. ET

Benjamin Netanyahu, fighting to hang on as prime minister, rebounded in Monday's election, but it is unclear he will have the parliamentary majority he needs to win a new term. Can the "King of Israel" — as his diehard supporters like to chant — find a way to extend his reign?

His veritable throne has been wobbling in the past year. Bribery allegations led to an indictment. Onetime allies turned against him, mounting the strongest challenge yet to his political survival. Election after election ended in stalemate.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Updated on March 2 at 10:21 a.m. ET

After two failed tries, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is hoping to win another term on Monday in the country's unprecedented third election in less than a year.

President Trump's Mideast peace plan was expected to help Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instantly fulfill a campaign promise to annex occupied land that Israelis and Palestinians have fought over for more than half a century.

But it didn't go as Netanyahu had hoped.

Among devout Orthodox Jews, the intense study of Talmud is no longer just a man's world. Women are increasingly delving into this central religious work, and American expats in Israel are at the forefront of the trend.

They're following a custom called Daf Yomi, Hebrew for "daily page," which involves reading a page a day of this centuries-old, multivolume collection of rabbinic teachings, debates and interpretations of Judaism. It takes about seven years and five months to read all 2,711 pages.

The White House has invited Israeli leaders to visit next week to discuss the administration's long-awaited Middle East peace plan. Meanwhile, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have already brokered their own unofficial deal with Israel — and it's beginning to have an impact.

Strawberries and snacks from Gaza may now be sold abroad. Gazan fishermen can venture farther into the Mediterranean for a better catch. Thousands of unemployed Palestinians are suddenly allowed to leave the territory to work in Israel after more than a decade.

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