How Israeli activists turned their protest skills into humanitarian aid

From democracy battle to help mode

The Israeli protest movement that had been challenging the government’s controversial judicial reform for months has transformed itself into a massive relief operation in the wake of the Hamas attack that killed more than 1,300 people in Israel. The activists, who had been organizing huge rallies and civil disobedience actions, are now using their high-tech expertise and network to provide emergency aid to the victims, rescue stranded people and animals, and assist in identifying and locating the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.

“We simply shifted from protest mode to help mode,” said Ami Dror, a tech CEO who has emerged as a prominent protest leader since the legal reform agenda was unveiled nearly 10 months ago by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. “It’s the same thing,” he told AFP at Expo Tel Aviv, which was teeming with activity. “We were warning against this government, which did everything in order not to take care of its citizens. We see it now.”

A huge relief operation

At the convention center, hundreds of volunteers with tech experience were using advanced tools to verify the identities of those believed to have been abducted by Hamas. They were also creating databases and websites to help families and friends find their missing loved ones. At a parking garage nearby, dozens were sorting through tons of donations of food, clothes and hygiene products, packing boxes that would then be delivered to hospital patients, soldiers, and families that lost their belongings in the onslaught.

How Israeli activists turned their protest skills into humanitarian aid

The activists have also set up hotlines, online platforms, and social media groups to connect people who need help with those who can offer it. They have mobilized drivers, bikers, and even helicopter pilots to transport people and supplies across the country. They have organized teams of veterinarians, animal rescuers, and foster families to take care of the pets left behind by their owners who had to flee or were killed.

A leaderless movement

The protest movement is largely leaderless, but significant and unexpected pressure is coming from military reservists and Israel’s vitally important tech sector. Many of the activists are former or current soldiers who have been called up to fight in the war, or tech workers who have been affected by the disruption of their businesses. They say they are not abandoning their struggle for democracy, but rather adapting it to the new reality.

“We are not giving up on our demands for a fair and independent judiciary, for a government that respects the rule of law and the will of the people,” said Dror. “But right now we have a more urgent mission: to save lives and help our fellow citizens who are suffering.”

The activists say they are not competing with or replacing the government, but rather filling in the gaps and complementing the official efforts. They say they are working in coordination with the authorities, NGOs, and other civil society groups. They also stress that their humanitarian aid is not based on any political or religious affiliation, but rather on human solidarity.

A hope for peace

The activists say they hope that their relief operation will not only alleviate the immediate suffering of the war victims, but also contribute to a long-term solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They say they are reaching out to Palestinian civilians who are also affected by the violence, offering them medical assistance, food, and water. They say they are also trying to establish contacts with moderate elements within Hamas, hoping to facilitate a dialogue and a peaceful resolution.

“We are not naive. We know that Hamas is a terrorist organization that wants to destroy Israel and kill us all,” said Dror. “But we also know that there are many Palestinians who want peace and coexistence, who are fed up with Hamas’s tyranny and corruption. We want to talk to them, to show them that we are not their enemies, but their neighbors.”

The activists say they believe that their protest movement has shown the power of civil society to challenge the status quo and bring about change. They say they hope that their relief operation will show the power of compassion and cooperation to overcome hatred and violence.

“We are not just helping people. We are also sending a message,” said Dror. “A message that we care about each other, that we are stronger together, that we can make a difference.”

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