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, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. 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.

He and his team were awarded an Edward R. Murrow award for a 2019 report challenging the U.S. military's account about its raid against ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

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.

America's top infectious disease official Dr. Anthony Fauci received a prestigious $1 million Israeli prize Monday, along with six other researchers who shared two additional $1 million prizes for their contributions to health and medicine.

The Dan David Prize, affiliated with Tel Aviv University, said it honored Fauci for his career in public health and "speaking truth to power" during the politicized COVID-19 crisis.

How has tiny Israel beat out bigger countries on COVID-19 vaccinations, securing a steady stream of vials and inoculating a larger share of its citizenry than any other nation?

Israel paid a premium, locked in an early supply of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines and struck a unique deal: vaccines for data.

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Israel's health minister announced Thursday the country would vaccinate Palestinian prisoners against COVID-19, after Israel's president said withholding vaccines was against Israel's Jewish and democratic values.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said the prisoners would be vaccinated early next week, on Monday or Tuesday. The minister informed NPR of the decision before making a public announcement.

Israel has vaccinated a larger share of its population against COVID-19 than any other country, and is aiming to achieve "herd immunity" from the virus by the end of spring or midsummer, the Israeli Health Ministry told NPR.

More than 800,000 of Israel's population of about 9 million have received COVID-19 vaccination shots. The country aims to vaccinate 25% of Israelis by the end of January.

Updated at 4:10 a.m. ET

Jonathan Pollard, the former U.S. Navy analyst who spent three decades in prison after pleading guilty to spying for the Israelis, has arrived in Israel a month after the U.S. Justice Department declined to extend his parole.

Pollard and his wife, Esther, landed early Wednesday at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv aboard a private jet owned by Sheldon Adelson, a major backer of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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The leader of the Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip has tested positive for the coronavirus as infections reach record levels in the Palestinian territories.

Hamas leader Yehiya Sinwar is in stable condition, according to Gaza's Health Ministry. He is one of several senior Hamas officials who have tested positive for the coronavirus in recent months.

"The situation in Gaza is really concerning. The recent spike of cases has put the health system in a critical situation," said Ignacio Casares of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza.

Saeb Erekat, a tenacious negotiator who helped forge some of the few political gains for Palestinians over more than two decades of on-again, off-again talks with Israel but who was ultimately frustrated by the two sides' failure to achieve a final peace settlement, died Tuesday from complications of COVID-19.

Erekat, 65, was being treated in Hadassah University Hospital Ein Kerem, in Jerusalem. His death was announced by his family on Facebook, his Palestinian political party Fatah, and confirmed to NPR by his spokesman, Xavier Abu Eid.

Updated at 9:20 a.m. ET

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat is being treated for COVID-19 in a Jerusalem hospital, according to the hospital, after Israel gave the OK for his transfer from the West Bank.

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There's a lot at stake for Palestinians, whether President Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden wins the election. NPR's Daniel Estrin reports there's no question who most Palestinians want to see win.

Israel, which imposed the world's strictest second nationwide lockdown, will be loosening some restrictions this weekend.

After a four-week lockdown, including a ban on movement beyond one-third of a mile from home, the country has dramatically brought down its number of infections.

On Sept. 30, Israel's health ministry reported there were 9,013 new cases, among the world's highest per capita daily infection rates. On Thursday, there were 1,608 new cases.

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Israel's health system has been buckling under a second wave of coronavirus infections, so it has enlisted the military to help, as NPR's Daniel Estrin reports from Jerusalem.

Never before has Israel had such a high need for those schooled in the rarefied art of shofar blowing.

The wail of the biblical shofar — made from the horn of a ram or a certain antelope species — is a hallmark of prayer gatherings on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, which begins this weekend.

But because of the coronavirus pandemic, Israel is mandating smaller, socially distanced prayer gatherings — so the country needs many more shofar blowers than in years past.

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Miss international travel? Why not recreate the experience in the comfort of your own home with some airplane food?

A leading airline food company in Israel is offering its in-flight meals to the general public as a low-cost delivery option during the pandemic.

Tamam Kitchen, which services Israel's El Al airlines, Turkish Airlines and other international carriers flying out of Tel Aviv, piloted the idea in late July as a way to stay in business.

"The air over Jerusalem is saturated with prayers and dreams like the air over industrial cities," wrote Yehuda Amichai, one of the city's beloved poets, in 1980. "It's hard to breathe."

Now it's hard to pray.

Israel's top public health official resigned Tuesday, claiming leaders ignored her warnings and reopened the country too quickly, driving a new surge of COVID-19 cases that officials are scrambling to contain.

Siegal Sadetzki, the leading epidemiologist heading Israel's coronavirus response and director of the Israeli Health Ministry's Public Health Services, posted her nine-page resignation letter on Facebook on Tuesday, the same day Israel quickly reimposed restrictions shutting down wedding and entertainment venues, bars, clubs, gyms and swimming pools.

Updated at 3 p.m. ET

As Israel faces a new surge of coronavirus cases, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pushing to restart a controversial cellphone contact-tracing program put on hold this month. But the spy agency that ran the surveillance doesn't want to do it again.

Baruch Shpitzer, the reception manager at the Dan Jerusalem Hotel, prides himself on making tourists feel at home in his sprawling 9-story hotel and spa, built into a cliffside and featuring panoramic Old City views.

In March, though, his hospitality skills were put to the test. His reception desk was encased in plexiglass. His new arrivals were sometimes delivered by ambulance. None of them was staying at his hotel by choice.

"We speak to them to get them out from the shock that they're in when they're coming into the hotel," Shpitzer says.

Two weeks after Israel fully reopened schools, a COVID-19 outbreak sweeping through classrooms — including at least 130 cases at a single school — has led officials to close dozens of schools where students and staff were infected. A new policy orders any school where a virus case emerges to close.

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For Gaza's broke grooms, the coronavirus crisis has been the perfect time to get married.

With wedding halls closed and public gatherings forbidden to prevent the spread of the virus, many couples have celebrated their marriage in alleyways and apartments — so grooms can save the fortune they're normally expected to spend on big parties.

Palestinian tradition dictates that the groom pay for the wedding, not the bride or her family.

Israeli researchers have tracked a global trend of anti-Semitic hate speech blaming Jews and Israelis for the coronavirus. But they stress that Jews are not the only target of virus-related conspiracy theories.

Updated at 2:14 p.m. ET

The coronavirus did not stop the tradition of the Holy Fire on Saturday, the centuries-old ceremony held annually at the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem the day before Easter on the Eastern Orthodox Christian calendar. But some adjustments were made.

Usually tens of thousands of pilgrims pack the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and surround the Edicule, the inner sanctum that houses the spot where tradition says Jesus was entombed and resurrected.

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are confronting the coronavirus crisis using familiar tactics from half a century of Israeli military occupation.

Village councils and political committees, well-schooled in community organizing through years of confronting Israel, have mobilized.

In the shadow of Israeli watchtowers and settlements, they have co-opted an emblem of their occupier and set up improvised checkpoints — to enforce a Palestinian Authority lockdown in areas where Palestinian police are not permitted to patrol.

For centuries, Hindus gathered to burn corpses on funeral pyres along the Ganges River. Jews received condolences at home during a seven-day mourning period. Muslims huddled together to wash the corpses of loved ones in Iraq and across the Arab world.

But global burial rituals are being dramatically changed by the coronavirus pandemic.

In the global race for medical supplies and a coronavirus cure, the Israeli government is mobilizing its spies, soldiers and secretive scientists.

Israel does not usually divulge what its covert agencies are up to. Some of the shadowy efforts have come under criticism, particularly over privacy concerns about surveillance. But recent announcements about these agencies' coronavirus war efforts could also serve to reassure a worried public as Israel struggles to contain COVID-19, with more than 6,000 positive cases and more than 30 dead.

Here are some examples:

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.

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.

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