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Kansas Citians with ties to Israel and Palestine share how the war has impacted their lives

A family of six sits around the dinner table in their home, posing for the camera.
Neta Meltzer
Neta Meltzer, second from the right in this photo of her family, says she is in constant communication with many of her cousins in Israel.

One week into the war between Hamas and Israel, the deadly conflict is having an impact on Kansas Citians at home and abroad. KCUR's Up To Date was joined by four people who live in our region or have roots here — two with Israeli ties and two with Palestinian ties — to share their experiences and how their family has been affected.

The pain and suffering caused by the war in Israel and Gaza is being felt by Kansas Citians at home and abroad. KCUR's Up To Date was joined by four people who have been impacted by the war in a series of accounts of uncertainty, searing pain and overwhelming worry.

The people included in this program were informed ahead of time that multiple other guests with ties to Gaza and Israel would be involved, and each would have the chance to express their lived experiences and views on what has happened over the past week.

Neta Meltzer, who was born in Tel Aviv and now lives in Overland Park, has about 20 family members living in Israel. She tries to communicate with them as much as she can via WhatsApp.

Meltzer told KCUR that she had been struggling to eat over the past week, a common thread amongst the guests who spoke with Up To Date.

A group of medical professionals gather around medical equipment in a hospital room.
Dr. Majdi Hamarshi
Dr. Majdi Hamarshi, second from left, was most recently in Gaza for humanitarian work with the Palestinian American Medical Association last July.

"It's debilitating," she explained through tears. "Because, it's enough that Israel was attacked. That's one thing. What was done to those civilians, to those babies, children, mothers, families... is unfathomable. It is impossible to process."

Dr. Majdi Hamarshi is a Kansas City-area doctor who also serves as the chairman of the board of directors for the Palestinian American Medical Association. He has spent many years bringing humanitarian aid to Palestine, and several of his friends and colleagues live in Gaza.

He said a hospital he often works with has not come close to keeping up with demand.

"That hospital as a system is collapsing. They are flooded by patients, by injuries. They're all overwhelmed," said Hamarshi. "(With) most of the casualties they are receiving, the civilians are the vulnerable ones. The children, the women, the elderly — and they are dying in the hallways. They can't get to them in time, and the medical teams there are feeling helpless, powerless."

Rabbi Steve Burnstein is a Shawnee Mission South graduate who moved to Israel in 1996, where he has remained since. His daughter, who is 21 years old, is currently serving in her mandatory service for the Israeli military.

Rabbi Steve Burnstein stands with members of his congregation.
Rabbi Steve Burnstein
Rabbi Steve Burnstein, pictured on the right, moved to Israel from the Kansas City area in 1996 and has called the country his home ever since.

While Burnstein's daughter had previously served as a physical trainer for combat soldiers, her job now consists of supporting people and attending funerals.

Recently, Burnstein’s daughter told him that the “time for mourning was not now.”

A woman wearing a sunhat looks out at the ocean at sunset while others play in the water and on the beach.
While Maha did not want KCUR to include her own image, she instead sent us this photo of her cousin living in Gaza, who Maha describes as beautiful.

“I broke down and cried (when she said that). She shouldn't have to be dealing with this type of a reality. No one should.” he said. “I just can't believe that this is the world — not just here in Israel, but in so many places around the world — where we haven't yet learned the lessons of what it means to live together in peace. The disregard for human life, it's just incomprehensible.”

Maha, who didn’t want to disclose her last name, is a member of the local Palestinian community in Kansas City. Outside of her immediate family, each of her extended family members live in Gaza. Many of them have already been displaced due to the war.

She told KCUR that she considers herself lucky, as she has been able to communicate with family members as the war has continued — something that many Palestinians have not been able to accomplish.

“I've been one of the lucky ones, I have been able to get a hold and communicate with my family. And as crazy as that sounds, (sounding) like something that can't happen or doesn't happen to most, there are so many Palestinian families out there who have not heard, who do not know.”

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  • Neta Meltzer, local resident, extended family lives in Israel
  • Dr. Majdi Hamarshi, chairman of the board of directors for the Palestinian American Medical Association, local doctor
  • Rabbi Steven Burnstein, Kansas City area native now living in Israel
  • Maha, local resident, extended family lives in Gaza
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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
As Up To Date’s senior producer, I construct daily conversations that give our listeners context to the issues of our time. I strive to provide a platform that holds those in power accountable, while also spotlighting the voices of Kansas City’s creatives and visionaries that may otherwise go unheard. Email me at zach@kcur.org.
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