Emily Siegel’s Jewish identity led her to a natural interest in the Middle East, having visited the region in high school, and almost ten more times, including extended stays, since then. “I continue to go back because I believe it is important to continue learning about the current situation on the ground, as well as to support and stand in solidarity with the amazing group of Palestinian and Israeli activists I have formed relationships with over the years and continue to work in conjunction with,” Siegel says.
The region’s state of affairs is disheartening for Siegel, especially considering the restrictions placed on its people. “Through my experience working and living with Palestinians, I have learned a great deal about true situation in Palestine/Israel and how what is occurring there, in my opinion, goes against many of the basic ideals of Judaism,” she notes. “If I so choose, I can move to Israel … while my best friend, whose family is from Yaffa, is not even allowed to visit this city because it is now within Israel. I believe that because I find myself in a state of privilege, as a Jewish-American, I must use this to speak out about policies and actions that go against not only my own beliefs but U.S. and international law.”
She is thankful to the faculty of IPCR for their involvement and openness with the students: “When I visited AU for Accepted Students day, I was drawn immediately to the program because of the commitment and availability [of the professors] to their students … I have been particularly influenced by Professors Mohamed Abu-Nimer and Christos Kyrou, who I not only had the privilege of having as professors inside the classroom but also as my advisors for various dialogues I facilitated,” Siegel explains. “Through their guidance, I have been able to realize even further ways in which I can impact the field to the best of my ability.”
Not only does Siegel credit the faculty with enhancing her time at SIS, but the other students, particularly through IPCR’s graduate student-led groups. “Through organizations like the Dialogue Development Group, Creative Peace Initiatives, and the Middle East group … I gained the opportunity to put into practice many of the theories and conflict resolution methods I learned through my classes.”
These skills are coming in handy for Siegel now. As a 2008 recipient of a masters degree in IPCR, she knows that she can make a difference in the peace process; she is currently working with non-profits that deal with the Israel/Palestine conflict, working on “ending human rights and international law abuses by Israel, particularly through working with youth … to empower them and work towards a massive social change movement,” Siegel comments. “Overall, AU gave me incredibly [useful] tools I can use within the field.”