The Holy Land at an Impasse

As politicians falter, Israelis and Palestinians find their own paths forward

Roadblock. Impasse. Stalemate.

Never in the nearly seven-decades of struggle between Palestinians and Israelis has the situation seemed so bleak. Stalled peace talks, attacks and reprisals, and a growing sense that neither side has leaders who can bring the unending cycle of violence to a halt, have led to rage and frustration that many fear will have an explosive end.

It was into this setting that 18 journalists of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s International Reporting Program ventured this summer. From the heady scenes of Tel Aviv’s gay pride parade, to the tense borders between Israelis and their Arab neighbors, to the overpopulated streets of Haredim, and the seething towns and settlements of the West Bank, we found Jews and Arabs with deeply rooted and complex grievances and hopes.

But amid the despair we also found people who were forging their own paths outside the political sphere. The entrepreneurs of Israel’s booming hi-tech industry, the creators of the Arab world’s most progressive women’s magazine and the bipartisan non-violence movement are just some of those striving to bring the peace and prosperity all sides crave.

These are their stories.

Palestinians in the West Bank Crave the Simple Pleasures of Peace

Ramallah, West Bank — The West Bank and Gaza territories are home to 4.6 million Palestinians, more than half under the age of 24. These millions of young people are coming of age against the backdrop of one of the most enduring and contentious conflicts in the world....

Amid Renewed Violence, Secular Israelis Move to the Political Right

Misgav-Am, Northern Israel — From his home at Kibbutz Misgav-Am on the Israeli border with Lebanon, Ayea Ben Yaakov looks through the fence at the houses on the neighboring hill in the stronghold of the Iran-funded military group Hezbollah. Yaakov represents the...

Ofra Settlement Awaits Looming Demolitions

Ofra, West Bank — The Ofra settlement in the West Bank is now 40 years old, a middle-aged island of Jews in a sea of Palestinians that can easily be mistaken for a Southern California suburb. Bikes quietly line the streets and young children innocently sit on their...

As Politicians Fail, Activists Try to Forge a Peace Between People

Gush Etzion, West Bank — Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger appears at first a small and quiet man until he stands to address an audience of journalists under an awning here in this tiny hamlet in one of the tensest areas of the West Bank. “How is it that I had lived here for...

Rainbow Colors in Tel Aviv

By Christine Brink

In the mind of the international community Israel is known almost exclusively for its conflict with the Palestinian people with whom it shares its land. But Israel has broken ground in other areas including gay rights. Tel Aviv was the first city in the Middle East to host a gay pride parade, and gay soldiers serve openly in the Israeli Defense Forces. The country’s 18th gay rights parade was held recently in Tel Aviv. As the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes a harder line on the conflict with the Palestinians, critics say the government is trumpeting its progress on gay rights to draw attention away from the crisis in a practice known here as pinkwashing.

The Holy Land at an Impasse: the Podcast

Produced by Noah Caldwell

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As we reported our way through Israel and the Palestinian Territories, we realized there was one common thread: across the board, Israelis and Palestinians shared a deep frustration with politicians. The protracted failure to find a resolution has left many to despair—but that frustration has also led many to find a way forward independent of official, political channels. In this podcast you’ll hear some of their voices. We’ll also talk with Peter Beinart, a leading commentator on Israel, and chat with some of our reporters about their experience on the ground.

Ethiopian Jews Fight for A Brighter Future

Jerusalem, Israel — Walking through the streets of the old city in Jerusalem, it is easy to get lost. Buildings, fashioned from limestone, have been built on top of and within each other for centuries. At night musicians line the streets; modern restaurants and ice...

Bedouins Demand a Halt to Ongoing Village Demolitions

Al Araqeeb, Southern Israel — About two dozen Bedouin men gathered near noon on a recent Friday to pray beneath a willow tree at this village in the barren Negev Desert, just north of Beersheba, Israel, and populated by members of the Al-Touri family. The tree now...

Hybrid: A Startup That’s Modeling the Future of Arab-Israeli Peace and Economic Prosperity

Tel Aviv, Israel — Eitan Sella is, as he describes it, a typical Israeli startup entrepreneur: the 26-year-old has recently finished his mandatory service with the Israeli army, he identifies as a secular Jew, and he never went to university. What sets Sella apart...

‘Evolution, Not Revolution’: The Fight to Integrate Haredi Jews into Secular Society

JERUSALEM — The streets of the Me’a She’arim neighborhood look like few places in Israel. Men walk around its narrow streets in black suits and white shirts; pious heads are covered with hats of different material or shape depending on their denomination. Women wear...

When Your Neighbor Is Your Enemy

By Christine Brink

On the borders of today’s Israel it’s not a matter of if the next war comes, but when. In the tiny northern village of Metula, people live in constant fear of a war with Hezbollah which controls the Lebanese territory they can see through the security fence that borders their town and divides the two nations. In the south, the residents in Kibbutz Nirim fear rockets from the Palestinian territory of Gaza.

Both groups have plenty of reason to be afraid. In these disputed areas small scale attacks are common and outright war happens too. Residents of Nirim died in the last war between Gaza and Israel in 2014.

But still the people stay. As Christine Brink reports the one thing that unites them is a conviction that if the state of Israel is to exist, Jews must be willing to live on its borders.


Christine Brink, Editor
Noah Caldwell, Audio Editor
Doha Madani, Social Media Editor
Tola Brennan, Web Design
Donna Airoldi
Kim Avalos
Gabe Carroll
Daniela Castro
Johanna Chisholm
Whitney Clegg
Monica Espitia
Tatiana Flowers
Josh Futtersak
Gustavo Martinez
Jad Sleiman
Lisa Thomson
Christina Thornell
Zach Williams

Director of International Reporting, Prue Clarke, Executive Editor
Director of Career Services, Andrea Stone, Program Director

Special Thanks

Uri Dromi, Jerusalem Press Club
Vanessa Gabbay, Jerusalem Press Club