Medill sophomore talks school-hosted trip to Israel

Andrea Michelson, Digital Managing Editor

ANDREA MICHELSON: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Andrea Michelson. Thanks for tuning in. Over spring break, the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications arranged student trips to four locations around the world. In this podcast we take you to Israel, where students traveled to learn about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For those who don’t know, both the Arab and Jewish populations have historic ties to the land known as Israel, and have long disputed over who should control and populate it.

MAIA BROWN: Everything is so complicated. Just like continually, with everything that we talked about that I thought I knew about, I would learn how much more complicated it is than I thought it was.

ANDREA MICHELSON: This is Maia Brown, a Medill sophomore who went on the trip. Brown said she had some knowledge of the conflict before the trip, but as she spoke with Israelis and Palestinians, more complexities came to light.

MAIA BROWN: I think my favorite person that we’ve talked to so far out of all of them was this guy who ran an art gallery in Jerusalem. And he’s Palestinian, like the art gallery has Palestinian and Israeli art. And just him talking about his mission to protect the Palestinian culture, and sort of force an integration was really cool I thought.

ANDREA MICHELSON: Brown said the art gallery owner receives money from the Israeli government to keep the gallery free and open to the public, especially to Palestinians who are often lower income. But because the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement boycotts any organization funded by the Israeli government, they boycott the gallery.

MAIA BROWN: I think from America, being someone who is pro-Palestine, I could easily say, yes, I support BDS. And then like talking to him and talking to a few other people, I realize like, it’s a lot more complicated than just saying that I 100 percent support BDS.

ANDREA MICHELSON: Brown said the class traveled to Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv over the course of a week. The group also visited the Golan Heights border and a Palestinian refugee camp.

ANDREA MICHELSON: Could you speak a bit more about the refugee camp. You said it was a lot, were you emotionally affected by the visit?

MAIA BROWN: I was emotionally affected for a lot of reasons. You know, you have empathy, and you talk to these people about being stripped away from their homes and being consistently disenfranchised. There are people who are born and raised on the camps and haven’t left. It’s just very sad to listen to, and they want better lives for themselves and don’t really know how to get them, and they kind of feel forgotten. Being there as a journalist was a little strange because I’m still not comfortable with the idea of going into a situation like that, like someone else’s life and another culture and then just coming in and kind of hounding them for questions and then leaving.

ANDREA MICHELSON: During the trip, Brown said she struggled with telling people’s stories in a way that felt respectful, not exploitative. Sometimes, she said, sharing smaller details to help people make informed decisions is more important than getting the most sensational story.

MAIA BROWN: I think a lot of people go towards the human stories, and it’s like, “oh, this sad child grew up in a refugee camp.” We have to write two stories once we’ve gotten back from the trip, and I don’t think either of mine are going to be those. And so I think the primary thing that I would write about is just smaller aspects that have bigger implications.

ANDREA MICHELSON: Thanks for listening, and make sure to check out our other podcasts about Medill reporting trips to China, Cuba and England. I’m Andrea Michelson. I’ll see you next time.

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