Devin Hogan. Photo by Glory Weisberg
By Glory Weisberg
University of Denver student Devin Hogan was in Israel when the conflict between Israeli and Palestinians literally exploded.
DU and Hebrew University give students credit for their exchanges and with international reporting and journalism interests. Hogan was excited to fly to Israel June 24 for what was to be a month to experience first-hand what the region is like.
In late July, as she was learning about the culture of the population, Jewish and Palestinian, she got more of an education than she’d bargained for. Explosions rocked the peaceful Jerusalem air and air sirens in Israel began ripping through the area.
Forty bombs went off that first day and at first, with only a few seconds warning, Hogan said, “I sprinted to a bomb shelter.” Later as the air sirens kept going on she said she got accustomed to them and didn’t bother rushing to a shelter.
“It wasn’t that frightening,” she said.
Hogan, who is not Jewish, was one of a group of five students living together and one of them was from Morocco. Hogan was doing “a lot of interviewing” of the locals, even though some refused to talk openly about life in the city.
“Some Israelis don’t want to be photographed and neither did the Palestinians,” she said.
And perhaps for good reason.
“Every bus station and every playground, every house has a bomb shelter. They live in fear. It’s pretty crazy in the border area that was the checkpoint on the West Bank,” she said, and they had to show their visas to be there.
And speaking of being there, “Hamas doesn’t want Israel there,” she said. “My personal opinion is what are the (Israeli) people supposed to do? Israel has to protect itself. It’s really tense there. One girl I interviewed didn’t understand (why Jews) were there.”
Perhaps typically, the girl she was interviewing didn’t understand how the geographical lines were drawn, and thought they were “too spread out.”
Asked her thoughts of the region’s future, Hogan said, “Peace can happen when Hamas is destroyed. Palestinians said they don’t want to be occupied anymore,” that the Israeli Jews don’t belong there, according to what the Palestinian was taught about history.
We stop to take a breath and ask whether Hogan feels media coverage of the conflict is balanced. Her reply, “No.”
“Without the Iron Dome (missile defense system), Israelis could not have survived. All I see on TV is Palestinian kids being hurt.
“I wanted to stay and see the war end,” Hogan said, but DU and her family couldn’t let her stay and they wanted her on the first American flight out, but on July 24 all planes were banned from the airport. When it reopened, the university got into action and spent an extra $3,500 to fly her home when normally the round-trip fare is $1,700 when planned well in advance.
But according to Will Jones, external communications manager at DU, “The university found the money to get this student out of there.”
Hogan said, “I would go back to Israel now and I understand what it’s like to be them, how they feel.” Tourists should see and understand this war. People don’t know about the disappeared Israelis.”
And speaking of disappearing, she said she has a friend in the Israeli Army who said the tunnels could be six stories down and cars can go through them.
So what’s in her future plans? She’s considering the Peace Corps, a two-year commitment, but she is also considering studies in strategic communications.
Students in the exchange program participate on two academic tracks: one of them focuses on the study of Hebrew, Arabic and Israeli studies. The other specializes in peace and conflict studies and international studies.”
Jones also noted that about 20 students have participated in semester-length programs like this, usually with three to seven students per year in this region.
With her experiences in Israel and getting in touch with Palestinians, as well as Jews and residents of other beliefs living there, she certainly has the perspective to become an intelligent expert on both, and has a bright future ahead as she enters her senior year at DU.
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