Emily Harris

International Correspondent Emily Harris is based in Jerusalem as part of NPR's Mideast team. Her post covers news related to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She began this role in March of 2013.

Over her career, Harris has served in multiple roles within public media. She first joined NPR in 2000, as a general assignment reporter. A prolific reporter often filing two stories a day, Harris covered major stories including 9/11 and its aftermath, including the impact on the airline industry; and the anthrax attacks. She also covered how policies set in Washington are implemented across the country.

In 2002, Harris worked as a Special Correspondent on NOW with Bill Moyer, focusing on investigative storytelling. In 2003 Harris became NPR's Berlin Correspondent, covering Central and Eastern Europe. In that role, she reported regularly from Iraq, leading her to be a key member of the NPR team awarded a 2005 Peabody Award for coverage of the region.

Harris left NPR in December 2007 to become a host for a live daily program, Think Out Loud, on Oregon Public Broadcasting. Under her leadership Harris's team received three back to back Gracie Awards for Outstanding Talk Show, and a share in OPB's 2009 Peabody Award for the series "Hard Times." Harris's other awards include the RIAS Berlin Commission's first-place radio award in 2007 and second-place in 2006. She was a John S. Knight fellow at Stanford University in 2005-2006.

A seasoned reporter, she was asked to help train young journalist through NPR's "Next Generation" program. She also served as editorial director for Journalism Accelerator, a project to bring journalists together to share ideas and experiences; and was a writer-in-residence teaching radio writing to high school students.

One of the aspects of her work that most intrigues her is why people change their minds and what inspires them to do so.

Outside of work, Harris has drafted a screenplay about the Iraq war and for another project is collecting stories about the most difficult parts of parenting.

She has a B.A. in Russian Studies from Yale University.

Two years ago, Itay Eshet's daughter told him she wanted a Facebook account. She was 10 years old.

Facebook's great, Eshet told her, but it's not for kids. So instead they built a new social network for preteens called Nipagesh, which means "let's meet" in Hebrew.

The United Nations agency that provides basic health care and education to Palestinian refugees doesn't have enough money to pay local salaries this month.

The shortfall could directly affect 30,000 teachers, doctors and social workers, as well as the people using their services in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and the Palestinian territories.

Filling Basic Needs

Sit for an hour in the United Nations Relief and Works Agency office in the al-Amari camp for Palestinian refugees, and you get a sense of what people expect the agency to provide.

There's an old joke that if Moses had turned right when he led Jewish tribes out of Egypt, Israel might be where Saudi Arabia is today — and be rich from oil. Consultant Amit Mor of Eco Energy says that joke is out of date.

"Israel has more oil than Saudi Arabia," he claims. "And it's not a joke."

But that oil will be difficult to reach, if it can be recovered at all. The oil he's talking about is not yet liquid but is trapped in rocks underground.

Many Israelis are critical of the interim deal on Iran's nuclear program, and some are even more worried about what could follow.

"What's important here is that both sides decided: We have to start consulting. Right now," says Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, now head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

The scissors never seem to stop in Sami's barber shop off a pedestrian street in south Tel Aviv.

Fresh out of the barber's chair, Philip Giray says he left Eritrea two years ago. Smugglers helped the 20-year-old cross into Sudan and Egypt. Then he snuck into Israel.

"We come here, we ask asylum here, they doesn't welcome us," Giray says. "They punish us psychological, you know?"

We wanted to follow up on our story about the ultra-Orthodox women in Israel who were running for the local council in El'ad, or Forever God, a small, religious Jewish town.

Five women had challenged not only El'ad's norms, but practices across Israel's various ultra-Orthodox communities just by getting their names on the ballot and running a campaign.

None of them won a seat, but they say they will be back.

Voters across Israel choose new mayors and city councilors in local elections Tuesday. In one small town, a handful of ultra-Orthodox Jewish women are defying the norms of their community by running for office.

On a recent day, children mob two women in skirts, stockings and purple T-shirts in a neighborhood park in El'ad, or Forever God. The women are candidates for town council. As part of their get-the-word-out campaign, they're blowing up balloons for kids.

To get a small sense of Fida'a Abuassi's odyssey, start on June 28, days before the Egyptian coup. She had just returned to her native Gaza Strip via Cairo after spending the year in New York on the U.S. government-sponsored Fulbright student program.

"I came back to Gaza, and then they declared that they will close the border until further notice," she says.

Her goal was to get to Indiana by August to start her master's program at the University of Indianapolis.

A little more than a decade ago, in an effort to improve security, Israel began building a physical barrier in and around the West Bank.

The Amer family is among the Palestinians whose lives were disrupted. The concrete wall and fence cut them off from their village. Their son was separated from his soccer buddies, the most important thing in the world to him at the time.

Israel eased a major restriction on the Gaza Strip last week. For the first time in six years, limited commercial shipments of cement and iron were allowed through Israel into Gaza.



World leaders are convening in New York this week for the United Nations' General Assembly. And among other things, they're facing some potentially dramatic changes in arms control in the Middle East. Syria might give up it chemical weapons. Iran is signaling that it might negotiate with the West over its nuclear plans. From Jerusalem, NPR's Emily Harris looks at how this might affect Israel and its own weapons programs.

The U.S. says more than 1,400 people were killed by chemical weapons in Syria on Aug. 21. Other sources have cited lower figures.

Not all victims were Syrian. A Palestinian family in Jenin, in the northern West Bank, is mourning the loss of 11 members.

'Everyone Inside Had Died'

Last Wednesday, two jetliners flew 450 Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

They were the last to arrive under an official program designed to bring to Israel all remaining Ethiopian Jews who are eligible for citizenship.

At the Tel Aviv airport just before the planes landed, everyone seemed excited. Relatives of people arriving from Ethiopia cheered when the plane doors opened.

Achenef Chekole arrived with his wife, two sons and two daughters. Family and friends who had already immigrated to Israel greeted them with hugs.

When you go to the Dead Sea for a float in its extraordinarily buoyant waters, signs warn you not to drink a drop. "Did you swallow water?" one Dead Sea do's and don'ts list asks. "Go immediately to the lifeguard."

People across the Levant love their dumplings, even if they can't agree on a name. Some say kubbeh; others say kibbeh. In Egypt, you might hear kobeba.

In Jerusalem, there are perhaps as many variations of the kubbeh as there are cultures in the city.

One popular version consists of meat wrapped in bulgur, then deep fried. Dip one in tahini for a crunchy snack.

But at the Te'amim — or Tastes — cooking camp in Jerusalem, chef Udi Shlomi prefers to teach kids to make kubbeh hamusta.

When Ruth Calderon is nervous, she does her nails.

"It helps," she grins. "Did you ever try? It puts you together. If you really are nervous you do bright red."

Calderon, 51, is a scholar and teacher of Jewish religious texts. She is also a novice Israeli politician, part of the new Yesh Atid (There Is a Future) party that unexpectedly took 19 seats in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, last January.

Four enormous water tanks sit high on a hill in the West Bank. These hold the lifeblood for Rawabi, the first planned, privately developed Palestinian community, about 25 miles north of Jerusalem.

After five years, the first neighborhood is nearly built. But developer Bashar al-Masri is worried, because when it comes to water, Israel controls the spigot in the occupied West Bank.

"We're about to have people move into the city," he says, "and we still do not have a solid solution for the water."

There's a pretty little spring in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where fresh water has dripped from the rock, probably for centuries.

Now it is the center of a deadly struggle over land.

Israeli teenagers from Halamish, the Jewish settlement a short walk uphill, found the spring several years ago. It flows from a small cave.

At the very southern end of the Gaza Strip on Monday morning, sweaty men in bare feet carried bags of cement on their backs from a stack near a gaping hole in the ground to a waiting truck.

The cement had come through a tunnel from Egypt, a lucky load that made it.

Over the past several weeks, Egypt's military has cracked down on the smuggling tunnels that bring many goods into Gaza.



An Israeli cabinet member said today that officials plan to release some Palestinians who have been in prison in Israel for decades. This appears to be part of the diplomatic dance around restarting peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel. After six visits to the region in six months, Secretary of State John Kerry, announced yesterday that there is enough agreement to begin initial talks next week or soon after in Washington, D.C.

Around the world, hundreds of millions of Muslims are fasting from sunrise to sunset. The Muslim holy month of Ramadan began last week and continues until Aug. 7. That's 30 days of avoiding food and drink all day. But in many families, someone still has to prepare a hearty, and sometimes festive, dinner every night.

"Ramadan is a big change in routine," says Jehad Outteneh, a Palestinian in Jerusalem who shops and cooks for her family of eight.

Moshe Haim always wanted to be a soldier. The 20-year-old is now a sergeant, more than halfway through three years of service in the Israeli military.

But when he goes home on leave, he doesn't talk about his military experiences to any of his eight siblings, especially his brothers.

"I know that for my parents and my brothers, the first, best choice is to be in the yeshiva and study there," he says at a small West Bank outpost where he's stationed. "It wasn't good for me, but my brothers are still pure."

If you died 55,000 years ago in the lands east of the Mediterranean, you'd be lucky to be buried in an isolated pit with a few animal parts thrown in. But new archaeological evidence shows that by about 12,000 years ago, you might have gotten a flower-lined grave in a small cemetery.



Henry Kissinger as Secretary of State in the 1970s made the term shuttle diplomacy famous in the Middle East. Some of his successors used the same strategy, but it had been a while. Well, now it's John Kerry's turn. He emerged yesterday from long separate sessions with Palestinian and Israeli officials, saying the start of peace negotiations could be within reach. NPR's Emily Harris reports.

(NPR's Emily Harris files this report from Jerusalem.)

Peace between Palestinians and Israelis? No? Progress? After four days of shuttle diplomacy, Secretary of State John Kerry says the two sides are getting closer to peace negotiations.