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It's been 5 months since Oct. 7 when Hamas attacked Israel


A temporary cease-fire and hostage exchange deal between Israel and Hamas before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins next week appears unlikely. Hamas says it's recalled its delegation from Cairo, where talks were ongoing. There are plans to resume those talks next week.

And today marks five months since Hamas attacked Israel and Israel began its deadly response. Palestinians' and Israelis' lives are now changed forever. And the state of Israeli society is crucial to understanding where this war might lead.

NPR's Daniel Estrin has been reporting on this and joins us from Tel Aviv. Good morning, Daniel.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So October 7, we know, was the deadliest day for Israel in its history. The Israeli military response has been the deadliest war Palestinians in Gaza have ever faced. How are Israelis feeling five months into this war?

ESTRIN: Israelis are living their lives on hold, Leila. Ninety-four thousand Israelis are still evacuated from their homes along the borders with Gaza and Lebanon, and it's not just them. I met with an October 7 survivor, Avidor Schwartzman.

AVIDOR SCHWARTZMAN: On October 7, something cracked or maybe broke in the Israeli psyche. Even those that weren't there, just saw it on TV, they are still there.

ESTRIN: Now, he was actually there in one of the attacked communities. His in-laws were killed, and his family has only now moved from a hotel to a trailer park to house all these broken families. And a lot of these families, he says, will not move to new homes being built for them until the hostages are freed. There are more than 130 Israelis still held in Gaza, many still believed to be alive. And so these families don't want the Israeli government to think that they're moving on until those hostages are released. And it's just a whole sense, Leila, that the entire country is in a state of suspended animation.

FADEL: A state of suspended animation. Now, there is a lot of alarm globally about the way Israel has conducted its response. But what do Israelis think?

ESTRIN: There is a consensus here that the war should continue until Hamas has no capability to threaten Israel. Israelis are largely unified now in support of the war. Together we will win is the slogan that you see everywhere - I mean, even displayed on highway signs along with the traffic reports. Many Israelis will tell you it's unfair of the world to expect them to show restraint in Gaza after the October 7 attack. And you also hear from Israelis who used to believe in some peace deal with Palestinians one day that they've lost all trust in that now. I spoke with an Israeli lawyer, Adi Peshko Katz (ph).

ADI PESHKO KATZ: The beliefs we had before October 7 were just wrong. We were just naive.

ESTRIN: You know, a lot of Israelis are angry at the world for seeing Israel as the aggressor against Palestinians and not as a victim defending itself.

FADEL: Now, Daniel, you've been reporting on this war for months now. What changes have you seen among Israelis and in Israel?

ESTRIN: You see a lot of guns, Leila. I mean, one of the most profound changes is that many Israelis no longer believe they can depend on their army alone. They saw what happened October 7. Civilians were under attack for an entire day before help arrived. And so 900 volunteer armed squads have been mobilized across Israel to patrol cities.

FADEL: Israel says Hamas has been greatly weakened by its military operation. What are Israelis most concerned about now?

ESTRIN: They're concerned about Lebanon. Hezbollah and Lebanon is a much more formidable enemy than Hamas is. Hezbollah has longer-range missiles that could paralyze Israel and knock out the electricity grid. So Israeli families are buying generators just in case, and many army reservists are being told to report for duty just in case there's war.

FADEL: NPR's Daniel Estrin in Tel Aviv. Thank you, Daniel.

ESTRIN: You're welcome. 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.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.