It's an unavoidable fact of editorial- writing that you write about people you've not met and places you've not seen.
But after many years on the newsgathering side of the Tribune, first as a reporter and national correspondent, later as the editor for metropolitan news, I know that firsthand experience is invaluable.
That's why I went to Israel this year. I hadn't paid much attention to the Middle East for decades. I was more focused on local news, or. when I was based in Texas, regional and national news. When I joined the editorial board in June of 2002, I had no thoughts of writing on the Middle East. It seemed daunting. Decades of conflict. Each side with its own narrative, its immutable litany of grievance, its outrage.
But part of being on the board is exploring, expanding your portfolio of interest and expertise. So I reluctantly agreed to occasionally write about Israel. The more I wrote and studied, the more fascinated I became. And so I went.
What I found was a country on alert but not on edge. A Jerusalem tour guide who had emigrated from New Jersey told me of returning from a recent visit to America. She fretted, she said, because there were no heavily armed guards in front of restaurants and grocery stores, like in Jerusalem. There, everyone makes a daily calculation about security. Some parents won't let kids ride the bus. Some avoid outdoor cafes on sidewalks because of previous terror bombs, preferring restaurants set back from the street.
Jerusalem was exotic, vibrant, humming with energy. But we also roamed, in an armored SUV, into the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. We heard the voices of anger. We saw barricades and barbed wire, waited anxiously at checkpoints, passed spots where Israelis had been slaughtered by terrorists. The trip affected me in ways I'm still trying to comprehend.
When I returned, everyone had the same question: Is peace possible? My answer: Yes, if both sides want it.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun