Thursday July 17, 2014 Wrap up of Jerusalem

Today was probably the day that I’ve learned the most being in Israel. As the last day of classes in Jerusalem wrapped up, we were given a wealth of information about the current state of affairs by Linda Gradstein, a world-renowned journalist mostly known for her work at NPR. After that discussion, we had class with Lori where we discussed a short story, “Flood Tide” by A.B. Yehoshua. Finally, we went on a beautiful hike up to Ein Kerem to finish up our time in Jerusalem. We still have two more days in this city but I feel as if I’ve lived here for years after all of the things we were able to do in about two and a half weeks. I have definitely fallen in love with this city and I hope to come back in the near future for another visit.

I am no expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but today, we received a dose of reality on this issue that I haven’t heard yet in Jerusalem. Linda Gradstein is a very intelligent, interesting, and well-spoken journalist who has devoted her life to exposing the truth of what occurs in the Middle East. She now works for The Media Line, a nonprofit American news agency which strives to provide equal content from both sides of the conflict with as little bias as possible. They also gravitate toward deeper analysis stories, not just the big headlines that most other news outlets provide. Linda is well-connected to both the Israeli as well as the Palestinian community, which allows her to create a well-rounded story that features people from different backgrounds. The Media Line is responsible for reporting on the news and they provide those reports to various news outlets throughout the world, in hopes of putting more truth and less bias into the minds of those who are not experiencing this conflict firsthand.

Linda had an absolute wealth of information, and there were a few points that stick out in my mind. Ever since the origins of this conflict, there has been talk of a two-state solution that would likely be impossible now. Linda disagrees with this and she thinks that a two-state solution is the best idea as of right now. Her reasoning is that the Israelis have three main objectives: to have a Jewish state, to be a democracy, and to have some type of control over the West Bank. These are definitely lofty goals but it is clear that the Palestinians living in Israel and the West Bank will not settle for those living conditions. Palestinians are not willing to give up their own ideals of living so that Israelis can have a Jewish state. Israelis will not budge until they receive all that they want. This leaves a two-state option as the only way to alleviate both parties, however land will always be disputed. It seems as if we get past one hurdle only to encounter many more, and there seems to be no end in sight.

Getting back to Linda’s role, she is responsible for reporting the truth, however difficult that may be to find. I asked her about the people that she interviews and she gave me a very interesting answer. She said that she interviewed the mother of the Palestinian teenager, Mohammed Abu Khedair, and it took about an hour for her to really open up. Linda did not want to interview his father, as many news outlets were attempting to do, but she wanted to hear from a mother’s perspective. At the end of the interview, Linda told the woman that she also has children and she could not imagine the pain that is being endured by the whole family. The fact that Linda can turn ordinary events into heart wrenching and empathetic stories is what makes her an extremely talented journalist.

After our talk with Linda, we had class with Lori, where we had a discussion about a very interesting short story called “Flood Tide.” This story at first seems very much like a biblical allegory, but when you peel back the layers, there are a multitude of directions that it could go in. The main character struggles with this so-called “test” because he must leave the prisoners in their cells to drown while he sails away in his boat. This is a test to see if his humanity will allow him to just leave them to suffer a brutal death. We compared this test to the test of Abraham who must sacrifice his son Isaac for his faith. However this test does not only reference religion, but also the human instincts of being able to kill someone. We find out in the end that the main character fails his test and he is unable to walk away; instead the prisoners lock him up and escape. This then brings up the point that he may have wanted to die. He may be the good sacrifice and the sinners have been left to go out into the world. There are many possibilities for the true meaning of this story but in my opinion, it is simply a matter of good versus evil, which is taught throughout the bible and it is also inherent in humanity. Unfortunately class was up before we finished out discussion on this story but we will continue to compare it to other stories we have read in the next few classes.

For the last part of the day, we went on a hike through Ein Kerem. It was a great experience and I truly feel like I can navigate through western Jerusalem now. I love hiking and I think everyone enjoyed the scenery that we took in. We toured a monastery as well, which was very different from most of the activities we have been doing. We finished up at the Hadassah Medical Center which is an incredibly massive complex.

Jerusalem has been an amazing experience and I very much look forward to the rest of this trip exploring Israel. I have learned so much about my culture and religion that will help guide me through life. There is something about coming to this place that just transforms a person and I cannot put my finger on it. I am so very grateful for this experience and I cannot wait to see the rest of this beautiful country.

-Tedi Rosenstein

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