Long gone are those good old days when I and a bunch of young reporters from all over the world had our greatest adventures in one of the most dangerous places of the world-Israel. We practiced belly dancing and enjoyed Spanish music. We touched the Wailing Wall with awe and reverence. We took a bus ride in downtown Tel Aviv with nervousness. We watched beautiful brides baptized in the Jordan River. We climbed the rocky Golan Heights, knowing that Syria is just miles away from us.
Many years ago, I was a Beijing-based journalist specializing in international news. I edited and wrote numerous stories on the Middle East crisis. Killings and violence happened so often in that place that I and my colleagues were almost numbed with deaths and injuries from the Middle East. Once I set my foot on the land of Israel, I started realizing that this is place characterized not only by suicide bombings but also by love, compassion and friendship.
In March 2001, when suicide bombings became a daily routine in Israel and surrounding areas, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited reporters from non-Western countries to Tel Aviv to participate in The International Courses on the Role of Opinion Molders in the Conflict Areas. I was among those invited. After I landed at the Tel Aviv International Airport and exited the border control area, an officer came to me and searched my luggage. The thoroughness of the search surprised me. I immediately realized that I was not coming to this country for vacation.
The course lasted about one month. During those days, reporters from China, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Ukraine,Guatemala, Egypt and many other third-world countries attended seminars held by scholars from Israeli think tanks and universities. We studied how global media outlets such as CNN and BBC have shaped global public opinion on Middle East conflicts. This part was a little bit boring. The fun part was traveling. We toured Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the Jordan River. The most fun part of the trip was that we reporters all became friends. We still are in touch today with each other via Facebook. I even invited some of them to talk as guest speakers, via Skype, with my International Communication and Foreign Press class.
I took tons of pictures during the trip to Israel. Unfortunately, 2001 was a year when digital camera was still a luxury. So my old-fashioned camera did not allow me to digitize pictures. Below are four pictures Jean Roberth Souze shared with us via his Facebook. Thanks, Jean! Jean is a journalist from Brazil and he was a lot of fun. I really enjoy his dancing skill! Some other journalists from Latin America are great dancers too!
Reporters pose for a picture at a gathering. Source: Jean Roberth Souze