Location, location, location. Not only the 3 most important things to consider when buying a house, according to “Life’s Little Instruction book,” … also the most important when considering where to do a summer internship.
For me, the required summer internship as part of Duke’s MPP program is a unique opportunity that I don’t expect to come again at this point in life—and a reason to try out living somewhere else in the world. Where is the perfect place for a person with an interest in the intersection of theology and public policy with an international aspect? My idea was Israel.
Jerusalem Institute for Justice (JIJ) was recommended to me as an organization doing relevant work focusing on human rights, religious freedom, and social justice. JIJ prepares a shadow report for the US Embassy’s Freedom of Religion report for Israel each year. It was interesting for me to hear how this small NGO developed this relationship with the Embassy; the founder of JIJ, an active lawyer, read the US report in 2006, disagreed with some of the information, called the Embassy found out who prepared the report. He asked to set up a meeting with him where he offered his services, and so the relationship formed and has continued. Now JIJ ends up quoting some of their own information back to the Knesset and referencing the U.S. Embassy’s Religious Freedom report.
My task is to gather information on the written law of the Israeli and Palestinian governments verses the actual practices. I am to conduct firsthand interviews with people who have experienced religious discrimination in Israel and in the Palestinian territories. My first interviews finally happened today, with a couple of Palestinian Christians in the Old City of Jerusalem.
The slow start has been good time for me to catch up on the history in this region and the current situation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. I became a fulltime researcher for the first half of my internship. Having just completed our group project last semester, the process felt familiar. The socially rewarding benefit is that I can now participate in conversations about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict without feeling totally over my head! It is amazing to think of how much I have learned since I arrived here.
Tomorrow it is off to Jericho to interview a man born in Gaza strip, a chauffeur among other things for Arafat, trained as a sniper by Fatah, who became a Christian in America and returned to his homeland to spread a message of peace. He is now running kindergartens and other life skill courses through his non-profit organization, Seeds of Hope; a pretty big deal since converting from Isalm is punishable by death in this part of the world. It doesn’t get much more interesting to me on a personal level and I hope to make a career out of it somehow!