These Israelis are trying to counter other Israelis blocking humanitarian aid to Gaza

Since Israel’s offensive began in Rafah in May, the amount of aid actually entering Gaza has dropped by two-thirds, according to the United Nations. Some of it has been stopped by Israeli citizens blocking the aid from entering. Now, other Israelis are pushing back to try to help get aid in.

The World
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On a breezy, Thursday morning, around 20 activists — both Israeli citizens and foreigners, including from the US — piled onto a small shuttle bus at a gas station in Jerusalem.

At a time that is arguably one of the most-tense and most-violent moments in Israel’s history, these activists, along with another group joining from Tel Aviv, made their way to the Tarkumiya crossing — a small checkpoint on the Green Line that delineates the border of the occupied West Bank from Israel.

They said they were making the trip for one reason: because other Israelis have been trying to disrupt the flow of aid from the West Bank to Gaza.

Activists arrive at the Tarkumiya crossing, where aid trucks pass through from the West Bank on their way to Gaza.Sarah Ventre/The World

While the situation in Gaza becomes increasingly dire, the need for humanitarian aid in the territory cannot be overstated. Since Israel’s offensive in the city of Rafah began on May 6, the amount of aid actually entering the enclave has dropped by a staggering two-thirds, according to the United Nations.

Additionally, trucks carrying aid across the border have faced a number of obstacles, including Israeli citizens who attack the trucks and their drivers, attempting to destroy the much-needed supplies.

The sign announcing the Tarkumiya crossing, just outside of the checkpoint.Sarah Ventre/The World

The activists traveling to the Tarkumiya crossing aim to show support for the truck drivers and deter the attacks.

The gathering was organized by Standing Together, a group that brings Israelis and Palestinians together to work toward what they see as a more just future. The group says it doesn’t want conflict — even with those who may be trying to disrupt the flow of aid. Instead, they hope to document what’s happening, ask the police to respond (something they say is not always happening) and, if needed, to physically position themselves between the trucks and those trying to attack them.

“I saw the videos of settlers burning, stabbing [and] ruining humanitarian aid,” said Noam Gophna, who recently started attending Standing Together events. “And I felt like this was one of the most-direct ways to help other than just donating money.”

She said she wants to feel like she can make an impact at a moment when things seem overwhelming.

“It feels like nothing ever changes and things only get worse.”

Noam Gophna, activist

“A lot of being a leftist in Israel is really depressing because no matter how many protests you go to, no matter how many direct actions you participate in, it feels like nothing ever changes and things only get worse.”

Activists gather together in the center of the roundabout that all vehicles pass through to cross into the occupied West Bank.Sarah Ventre/The World

Not everyone at the event calls themself a leftist, and those who do are a minority in Israeli society, which can also be isolating.

“I’m disgusted to even think of myself as an Israeli,” 52-year-old Itay Eyal said. “This is the country that, on behalf of my name, commits these atrocities. And it’s my tax money that goes in there. This is the least I can do to compensate for this horror.”

In the distance, the separation wall can be seen on the ridge of the hill. The International Court of Justice considers this barrier illegal.Sarah Ventre/The World

After a few hours, one of the organizers gathered everyone together to say that seven aid trucks successfully passed through the crossing, but that 30 more were turned back at the border by the Israeli government. The World reached out to multiple agencies — including the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) and the Israel Police — for confirmation, but none responded.

Even though many of the volunteers in attendance expected a confrontation, that day, no one was trying to intercept the trucks. There was, however, one man who drove by shouting in Hebrew, “I have a heart for Jews, not for worthless people like you. You love the blood of Jews! Shame on you. You pathetic people. Descendants of Germans [a reference to Nazis]. You zeroes — your brothers have been slaughtered.”

At the end of their gathering, attendees come together for a group photo.Sarah Ventre/The World

In the middle of the roundabout right before the checkpoint, activist Tsafra Kipnis yelled back also in Hebrew, “You have no heart.”

Kipnis said that she’s against the war, starvation and the siege. She also said that her brother, niece and their caretaker were murdered in their home on Oct. 7.

“They were people of peace,” Kipnis said. “And I’m here in their name.”

Related: ‘He was killed with no justification’: In the West Bank, a Palestinian family grieves the death of their oldest son

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