Fifty Years,

Two Realities in the Holy Land

M

etal detectors on the Temple Mount. Prayers in the alleyways outside the Al-Asqa Mosque. Laser light shows proclaiming “50.” Promises of yet another round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks by a new and untested American president.

This was the summer that marked a half-century of — what? The occupation of the Palestinian West Bank? The reunification of Israel’s capital, Jerusalem? Depending on which side of the Green Line and its intransigent conflict you sit on, it was, of course, both.

That may have been the key takeaway for a group of 23 students from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s International Reporting Program as they toured Israel and the West Bank for 10 days this summer. The trip came during a peaceful period a few weeks before the latest outbreak of violence that would claim the lives of police, settlers and protesters.

But the region’s divides were always close at hand, whether at kibbutzes on the borders with Gaza and Lebanon, in the offices of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah or in a UN observation post on the Golan Heights with a view of the battleground in Syria. And yet even here, life goes on, as we learned through a Bedouin woman starting a new business, a Haredi man challenging tradition and even dog owners who have made Tel Aviv the friendliest canine city in the world.

The stories on these pages explore the complicated reality of life in Israel and the West Bank as individuals strive for personal stability in an atmosphere that is anything but stable.

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