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Kateira Aryaeinejad- large portrait

Kateira in front of the Al Aqsa Mosque in the old city of Jerusalem.

AU Degree: International Peace and Conflict Resolution

Abroad Program: Internship

Semester: Summer 2015

A Brief Summary of My Experience Interning at the Center for Democracy and Community Development in Jerusalem

If there is anything I have learned from my studies in international peace and conflict resolution, it is that direct engagement, experience, and understanding of the context in which a conflict is taking place is key to developing the means by which to resolve it. In this regard, I learned much about peacebuilding from my experience interning at the Center for Democracy and Community Development (CDCD), a Palestinian NGO based in East Jerusalem. While interning there, I benefited immensely from the opportunity to live, work, and engage with populations involved in one of today’s most intractable conflicts. As an analytical research intern in the CDCD’s Arab Peace Initiative (API) Project, I participated in a number of activities that expanded my understanding of conflict. The most rewarding of these activities included those associated with the following: 1) my internship tasks; 2) a meeting with EU representatives regarding the API as a basis for comprehensive peace in the Middle East; and 3) my day-to-day interactions with local populations. Such activities vastly increased my understanding of the realities of peacebuilding in a conflict zone, enabling me to bridge the gap between what I have learned thus far through academic study, and the reality of conflict and peacebuilding in the field.  

My internship tasks, in particular, provided me with greater insight into the different mechanisms available by which to transform theoretical tools and peacebuilding concepts into realistic and effective policies. During my internship, I assisted in compiling, editing, writing, and contributing to a new series of CDCD booklets on topics related to the API. This increased my understanding of the API as a potential theoretical foundation for building peace, as well as the difficulties and opportunities associated with implementing and promoting peacebuilding mechanisms to parties involved in conflict. Moreover, my tasks and responsibilities helped me to further develop my academic and professional skills in research, outreach, preparing materials for publication, and teamwork. While at the CDCD, I was also given the opportunity to attend a meeting with various European Union (EU) representatives to discuss how EU member states can augment the promotion, adoption, and implementation of the API. In doing so, I learned, firsthand, of the prospects and anxieties surrounding the Middle Eastern peace process, particularly in Israel and Palestine, and of the role of international actors in localized conflicts. In addition, during the meeting I was able to establish connections and learn more about the professional and personal experiences of those EU representatives already working for peace in the Middle East. 

Finally, during my three months in Jerusalem, I was able to watch, discuss, and experience the dynamics and individuals involved in conflict directly. Doing so increased and further developed my capacity to work in the field and engage with different parties to a conflict in a professional manner. It also brought to light new insights regarding conflict and peacebuilding that I was previously unaware of, broadening my understanding of what can viably create peace. In particular, it illuminated that there are indeed pathways to peace, notably within those sentiments shared among conflicting populations. From afar, it seems as though little desire for peace exists among Israelis and Palestinians; however, my experiences and conversations with individuals from both populations surprised me, revealing a shared wish to further engage in peaceful relations with one another. All in all, my experience interning at the CDCD was truly enlightening. My internship gave me the opportunity to learn more about the different cultures, viewpoints, and sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, knowledge that will undoubtedly enrich my future academic and professional pursuits. In addition, it allowed me to uncover the similarities that exist between populations involved in highly divisive conflicts and, thus, to uncover a continued potential for peace.  

I am truly grateful for having been able to work with the dedicated CDCD team on grassroots peacebuilding initiatives, and especially honored to have done so given the generous funding provided by the SIS Graduate Research, Conference and Internship Grant.