Writing for the Jerusalem Post
On my second day as an intern at the Jerusalem Post, I was sent on assignment to meet with Bedouin villagers whose homes were slated to be demolished in the coming months. After sipping the customary cup of coffee offered to me by an elderly man from the local village, Wadi Na'am, I set off with the other journalists down an uneven, dusty desert path to survey the homes that were slated to be destroyed in the coming weeks. Make-shift houses without electricity or running water stood in the shadow of an electrical facility, while a mosque that looked more like a garden shed served as a reminder of the faith local people that God would provide.
I interviewed a young lawyer who was doing pro bono work on behalf of these villagers, working to ensure access to education, utilities, and fresh water. I asked what was hindering her efforts to achieve these goals. She explained, “In the absence of political will, the law means nothing.” Unless someone would step in to enforce the legal rights guaranteed to these Bedouin, no progress would be made. For the first time in my undergraduate career, I was confronted with the realities that underrepresented populations face every day. I was forced to examine my own privilege as someone who has benefitted from a legal system that largely protects my rights.
The next morning, I brought in pages of notes, full of my observations, interviews with legal advocates, and snippets of conversation with the Bedouin villagers. After presenting my work to my editor, I was told that unless something new had developed - perhaps another village had been added to the "to-be-demolished" list? - the information I had gathered wasn't newsworthy. It wasn't? It felt newsworthy to me. It felt newsworthy to those whose homes would be uprooted, their families displaced, and livelihoods relocated or destroyed.
But I recognized that my job description was only to provide news, not to serve as an advocate for change. I suppose that's when I realized that there were certain issues about which I could not maintain a journalist's objectivity. I needed to persuade, to enact change. I felt like I was personally failing the people I had just interviewed by not telling their story.
It is this experience that has led me to pursue a career in international affairs, giving a voice to those who might otherwise be ignored. My interests in human rights, refugee and forced migration studies, and social policy have all been shaped by this one event. I recognized that wanted to do more than fill column space; I wanted to work in advocacy, ensuring that my words would have a purpose.