Interns – An Important and Integral part of the PIJ Family

Since the early years of Palestine-Israel Journal, interns have played an important role in our activity. Over 200 interns, an average of 10 to 15 almost every year, have spent anywhere from one to six months with us. Most have been BA or MA students in their early to late 20s, while there have been also some high school students and a few memorable veterans in their 60s and even 70s! Many discovered us in the course of their studies, as a valuable resource for their academic work, some came to us as part of the Achvat Amim/Solidarity of Nations program, from Ann McLaughlin’s Ngoabroad initiative, from Dr. Yehuda Lukacs’ Overseas Student and Global Knowledge programs and from the Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace (FFIPP) summer programs, while most found their way to us on their own. They have made major contributions to our work while gaining a tremendous amount of hands-on experience in the “eye of the storm,” in Jerusalem. Spending a period in our unique bi-national environment has made a major contribution to both their academic and professionals careers. They participated in the preparation and editorial process of issues, covered conferences, carried out interviews, wrote blog posts and articles, and introduced us to many social media skills. Interns have come from the U.S., Canada, the UK, Ireland, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Spain, Austria, Iceland, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Japan, China, India, Morocco, Turkey, Australia and of course Israel and Palestine.

Elizabeth (Lizzie) Lawrence (2015) from Australia wrote the following essay about her experience as a PIJ intern for her university.

An Internship in Palestine Offers Fresh Perspective on Politics, Religion and Conflict

Elizabeth Lawrence

Elizabeth Lawrence, a Master of International Relations student at Melbourne University Elizabeth Lawrence reflected on the immense potential for learning beyond the classroom to be gained from an international internship, and shared her experiences of interning in the Middle East at the Palestine-Israel Journal.

As part of my Masters of International Relations I travelled to Jerusalem for a two month internship with the Palestine-Israel Journal (PIJ), a non-profit publication founded in 1994 by two prominent journalists, Palestinian and Israeli respectively.

The journal aims to open the channels for dialogue between both sides of the Palestine-Israel conflict in order to encourage support for the peace process. Each issue focuses on a particular topic related to the Israel-Palestinian conflict and contains analyses, opinion pieces, book reviews, interviews and other articles written by an equal number of Israeli and Palestinian authors. I had used numerous articles written for the PIJ while undertaking research for essays and policy papers for my degree, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to a publication I revered. 

As an intern, my main task was carrying out initial edits of articles that had been sent through to the editors. The up-coming issue was titled ‘Religion and the Conflict,’ and so I had the opportunity to read articles from authors of different backgrounds and perspectives with a focus on many aspects of religion. Reading and editing these articles made me question and re-evaluate my previous notions and perspective on religion, and how religion relates to politics, society, culture, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the condition of the broader Middle East. I also attended a number of conferences with other interns from the PIJ that related to religion in the conflict. 

While there was some agreement that religious leaders were crucial in facilitating dialogue between difference religions in the process in theory, there was limited discussion or debate about the logistics or difficulties in practice. Each conference was different and interesting, but I can also see how these kinds of discussions are limited in their reach and effectiveness: it is impossible to have all areas of society affected by the conflict be present and participatory. This could be due to conscious exclusion, disinterest, lack of awareness, or probably a mixture of all three. Despite this limitation, I felt that I learned a lot from these conferences, both in terms of the discussion topics but also about how those directly affected by the conflict conveyed their stories and opinions.

The most rewarding part of the internship for me was my own interview project that I carried out as a representative of the PIJ. I travelled around the region with another intern to meet and interview various politicians, activists and academics in order to gain a broader scope of the different perspectives of the conflict. I was in an advantageous position where I could be half-journalist, half-student and pick the brain of these influential people to better understand the state of affairs in Israel and the Palestinian Territory. Collating these interviews allowed me to appreciate the wide range of opinions about the conflict, both as it currently stands and how it may affect the future of the region. I used the information I collected to write a final report that would count towards my degree, thus combining analytical skills I had learned in Melbourne with new primary research conducted in Jerusalem. Conducting these interviews was definitely the most challenging but most rewarding aspect of my internship, and I am grateful that the editors of the PIJ gave us the chance to carry out personal projects while also working for the Journal.

I worked for four days a week, and so I had the opportunity to travel as well. Within Jerusalem, I visited the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, explored the Old City and climbed the Mount of Olives. I travelled to Tel Aviv to relax on the beach and swim in the Mediterranean. I also visited other areas such as Nazareth, Bethlehem, the Dead Sea, Eilat, the Golan Heights, and even took a weekend trip to Wadi Rum and Petra in Jordan, so there was definitely a touristic element to my trip. I was lucky enough to stay with a Palestinian family who lived in the Old City, and I learned so much from them like useful Arabic phrases and how to cook traditional Palestinian dishes, but I also learned of the personal challenges they face living in such a tense, and sometimes dangerous, city. It was these stories that really resonated with me and made me realize that there is a lot to be learned outside of the lecture theatres. My time in Jerusalem and at the Palestine-Israel Journal allowed me to combine all that I had learned during my degree with a new-found perspective and understanding about politics, religion and conflict, and how important these components are in shaping international relations.

And this is what Molly Block (2016) from the U.S. sent us about her period at PIJ:

CONGRATS on 25 years!

PIJ embodies a critical loving nature that showed me that another way [beyond hopelessness and despair] of engaging with the injustices of this world is possible. Through collectively grappling with abhorrent political praxis to weaving stories of interdependent sustenance and thriving, PIJ continues to ground my action and exploration nearly 6 years later. 

May PIJ continue to sustain + thrive for 25 more years, and beyond!!!

Abigail (Abbey) McCall (2019) from Australia established a PIJ Interns Facebook group, which all former PIJ interns are invited to join and participate in.

And we have benefitted greatly from the fact that Victor Carpentier (2014) from France, who went on to serve as the Cultural Attache at the French Embassy in Thailand, has designed many of our PIJ covers in recent years. 

Interns have and always will be an integral part of the PIJ Family.