Dear Mom,

I can’t believe my winter break is over and that I’m already back to the grind with school! I had a great time in Israel. I was there to report a story about best friends and business partners—a Palestinian and a Jewish Israeli—who collect and sell embroidery together. They requested I not use their names because of potential backlash.

I achieved my reporting goals—ten interviews, five photo shoots, lots of meetings—and now I have to write it all up!

I spent two nights with the Palestinian friend and learned a lot about her life in Bethlehem. She reminds me of you—her hands never stop cooking, sewing, embroidering, cleaning, preparing. Everything in her house, from olive oil soap and sheep’s milk cheese to embroidered cushion-covers and tablecloths, she cultivated with her own hands.

For breakfast, we ate olives that she picked and cured herself, green leaves she collected from the Jewish Israeli friend’s front yard and sautéed with onion and garlic, and kaak ma’amoul (“filled cookies” in Arabic) that she made late at night.

Kaak ma’amoul are traditional Palestinian date-filled, sweet cookies. I had eaten them before, but the way that this woman made them, without sugar in the dough, was different and oddly nostalgic. Her kaak ma’amoul are simple: dough—white flour, oil, water and fennel seeds—wrapped around spiced date purée. The mild dough against sticky dates reminded me of Bubbe’s oily strudel stuffed with spiced raisins.

While I was reporting, I noticed many such parallels among Jewish and Palestinian traditions and daily life. Also, the ways in which many of the Jewish Israelis and Palestinians that I spoke with described their feelings toward one another were strikingly similar.

“When you don’t know people, you get afraid,” the Jewish Israeli friend said, “But when you see them you get unafraid.”

“I wanted them to meet Israelis to see that they are human like us and we are all like each other,” the Palestinian friend said.

People are afraid of the unknown. When people are separated, they do not interact, and fear persists. Fear dominates.

This is why I went back to Israel over my winter break. This is why I study journalism. Sometimes I feel that the only way to introduce humans to one another—to cross borders, create groundwork for dialogue, dilute fear in a small way—is to tell stories.

xo,
Shaina