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This Israeli general saw the horror of the Hamas attack. Now, he's urging optimism

Yair Golan rescued people stranded at the Nova festival when Hamas attacked.
Ayman Oghanna for NPR
Yair Golan rescued people stranded at the Nova festival when Hamas attacked.

The morning of the Hamas attack on Israel, Yair Golan — a former member of Israel's parliament and a major general in the country's military reserves — leapt into action.

Now, a month later, he tells NPR the message he wants to spread is one of optimism: "We need to concentrate right now not on revenge but on building — rebuilding our nation."

Who is he? Golan was a member of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, until last year. His party is on the left of the political spectrum.

  • Golan joined the recent massive street protests against the far-right government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
  • He has five sons, aged between 34 and 19. The youngest will enlist in Israel's military this month, meaning all five will be serving.

What happened? When Golan saw the news of the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7, he got in his car and drove down to the area around the Nova music festival that was attacked to see how he could help.

  • First, Golan's sister asked him to pick up three people who had escaped the festival. She sent him their location on Google Maps, and when he found them, they were hiding in bushes.
  • He got two more calls and made two more trips back and forth to get people out.
  • He says the third time he went to pick someone up, he was much closer to the festival site. "When I drove along the road, suddenly I realized the horror because there were bodies, you know, along the road," Golan said.

What is he saying? Golan spoke to All Things Considered host Mary Louise Kelly in Israel this week.

Here's what he said about being called a "hero" by Israeli press:

On how he talks to his sons about their military service:

And why he holds on to hope and joy:

Learn more:

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Megan Lim