Tuesday, June 12, 2012

It's Good To Be Back

Mmmm…the smell of falafel is in the air, and thankfully it’s not from Boston University’s late night pita joint adjacent to my freshman dorm. It’s coming from the epicenter of culture, the city beloved by three religions, and the place I called home for three months – Jerusalem.

Yup, I’m back again! And it feels great. I’ve been at the hotel Lev Yerushalayim (the heart of Jerusalem) for just over a week and I already feel so acclimated to life here. Myself, along with twenty-five students from the Boston area, are participants on a seven-week program based in Jerusalem. Though I have done many Israel programs in the past, this is the first career-oriented trip that aims to introduce its participants to the Israeli workplace and to provide hands on internship experience.

I was placed at the online newspaper The Media Line, a nonprofit that combines my two majors, and quite auspiciously, my two passions – international relations and communications. This organization’s aim is to provide unbiased, accurate coverage of Middle East news – check it out! http://www.themedialine.org/index.asp (shameless plug).

When I first met my boss, Felice, I was excited, intimidated, and a bit apprehensive all at once. I was excited to explore the journalism field (as I have never actually delved into it), intimidated by my boss’s resume, and apprehensive about working for a news source that feeds stories to the Palestinian paper Al-Quds as well as the very left wing Al Jazeera. In fact, when I told my boss that I had worked with the advocacy organization StandWithUs, she was quick to point out the discrepancy between advocacy and journalism.

It was during this conversation with my boss that I had an epiphany: during my seven weeks in Israel, my goal will not be advocacy. After all, to whom would I preach? I’m pretty sure everyone who lives here knows about Israeli culture, the Oslo Accords, and Israeli innovation. Indeed, the advocacy field works to provide insight to indifferent Americans on college campuses, and it seems to stop there.

So, I was forced to ask myself – what goals do have for my time in Israel? Or perhaps even lifelong goals? My thoughts took me back to summer of 2008. I am in tears, hugging a Palestinian Bedouin girl at her school in the desert. We communicate in Hebrew, broken on both ends, yet somehow understanding each another. Since this visit, fostering communication between the Israeli and Palestinian communities has become a passion of mine. Though this passion lay dormant while in America, I am reminded of the severity of the issue every time I return to Israel.

The Media Line has a wonderful program called “The Middle East Press Club” which does exactly that – it brings Palestinian and Israeli journalists together to share stories and help further communication between their people. Though I will not directly be working for this cause, I will be conducting research for stories that may be fed to Palestinian and Israeli newspapers. Additionally, I am currently researching foundations to fund Felice’s second initiative, which is to help advance women in the Middle East professionally.

Aside from research, I will attend conferences, conduct interviews, and help formulate stories for the organization. I have already attended one conference and schmoozed with some ambassadors – looks like I’m off to a good start!