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‘I went with a purpose’: Las Vegas attorney volunteers in Israel

Updated November 24, 2023 - 4:36 pm

Going to Israel was something David Chesnoff had to do.

“I went with a purpose in mind, to try to volunteer, to help in any way I could,” said Chesnoff, 68.

One of Las Vegas’ most prominent criminal defense attorneys, Chesnoff took a break from the courtrooms of Clark County to be in Israel from Nov. 12 through Nov. 20 because he wanted to do whatever he could to help in the country amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.

Working with the American Friends of Sheba Medical Center charitable organization, Chesnoff was placed as a volunteer at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv, where he helped with inventory of supplies and materials used to treat wounded soldiers.

He said military personnel would come to the hospital to pick up supplies they would use to treat soldiers in the field. Chesnoff said that the most satisfying part was knowing that his work was helping those soldiers.

“I think they just appreciated that I was an American that came to help,” Chesnoff said, adding that he would encourage anybody to either give money to the organization or volunteer if they can.

“It’s very important to people in Israel to see that Americans are supporting them,” he said.

Chesnoff worked for several days at the hospital, but he also visited Jerusalem, where he met with the president of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the dean of the law school there, as well as Tel Aviv. He also met with Israeli lawyers who are helping the effort to secure the return of hostages being held by Hamas.

The mood in the hospital was very intense, “all hands on deck,” with the staff showing dedication and enthusiasm, he said. He described the hospital, which Newsweek ranked as the 11th best hospital in the world in 2023, as being like a city itself. It is the largest hospital in Israel.

Chesnoff, who is Jewish, said he has been to Israel many times, including having lived there several times when he was a boy. But he said this trip was different from other trips.

People were still going about their daily lives, but there was an “edge in the air.” He couldn’t go anywhere without seeing posters of the hostages. There is a lot of anguish, he said.

“They were stunned at the barbarism that occurred,” Chesnoff said, referring to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack. “They’re in shock.”

One of the most memorable parts of his trip, he said, was something he saw outside the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. It was a long table set up for a Shabbat dinner, with place settings and empty chairs, including high chairs for babies, to represent the people Hamas kidnapped and took as hostages.

“I got very emotional and had to leave,” he said.

Chesnoff said he’s well acquainted with the conflicts that have embroiled Israel over the decades. His late brother, Richard Chesnoff, was an author and senior U.S. News and World Report correspondent and New York Daily News columnist who covered the Middle East. Chesnoff represented the Review-Journal in its court fight to protect the sources of slain Review-Journal investigative reporter Jeff German.

As for the current Palestinian experience, Chesnoff said, “It’s on Hamas.” He said he believes in a two-state solution and hopes for peace.

“I think that it’s important that there be peace not only for Israel’s sake but for the Palestinians’ sake, and also as a real buffer against Iranian intentions, which are, as far as I’m concerned, the ultimate evil in the area,” Chesnoff said.

Contact Brett Clarkson at bclarkson@reviewjournal.com.

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