Eliza-Eve Leas '13, Student Intern with Encounter, 2012
Eliza-Eve Leas '13 was awarded a GRINNELLINK internship to work with 2011 Grinnell Prize winner Rabbi Melissa Weintraub's organization Encounter. Eliza-Eve worked with Encounter for ten weeks in New York City during the summer of 2012.
Eliza-Eve Leas '13 is an economics major with a concentration in global development studies from Burlington, Vermont. A member of the Peace Studies committee at Grinnell, Eliza-Eve enjoyed working with a peace-building organization to strengthen her contribution to the committee and to the campus.
Reengaging with the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict- My Summer with Encounter
I first learned about Encounter when it won the Grinnell Prize, almost a year and half ago. The organization seemed like they were doing great work, but I had disengaged from the Israeli/Palestinian conflict years earlier and wasn't ready to learn more about a war that I had been actively ignoring.
Fortunately, I began looking for summer internships a few months later. After working for a conservation corps for two summers—living in the woods and doing manual labor—I was ready for something a little more intellectual. I came across Encounter again, because Grinnell was offering an internship with the organization as a GRINNELLINK. I started to read more about Encounter: about their listening model, their unique target audience, and their flagship tours to the West Bank. The more I learned, the more excited I got. Encounter offered a method for conflict transformation that allowed me to reengage with an incredibly contentious and personal topic.
Working at Encounter gave me the opportunity to explore my own views on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict on multiply levels and with profound nuance. It also introduced me to the opinions of other Diaspora and Israeli Jews struggling with the conflict on their terms.
A major component of my education was a long-term analysis of participant evaluations. Encounter collects evaluations after each of its trips to the West Bank, and I used qualitative analysis software to organize and summarize frequent comments and responses. The evaluations offered me a glimpse into the powerful experience of listening to Palestinian narratives and visiting Palestinian places. The participant comments also gave me a clearer sense of where the Jewish community stands on the conflict, from all points along the ideological spectrum.
The analysis project, along with meetings with Encounter staff, participants, and speakers, helped to inform my own journey into a newly-reengaged young Jewish woman. Encounter staff facilitated two workshops during my internship to aid staff and interns in processing, framing, and speaking about their relationship with Israel and with the conflict. As a result of these workshops and extensive conversations with my supervisors, I now feel confident expressing my deeply-held and extremely complicated views to an audience—which I will be doing soon, as part of the Grinnell Prize presentations!
Finally, my internship with Encounter prepared me for the practical challenges of working in a small-but-growing non-profit. Since I hope to go into the non-profit sector after I graduate, the intimate look into management, administration, and development answered many of my questions and prepared me well for the next steps in my career.
Grinnell has already given me the chance to put to use some of the skills I learned with Encounter. At a recent Shabbat table, the conversation turned to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict—which is often a cue for most people to leave the table. When the conversation became heated, I mentioned Encounter's listening model and a few tips from the Communications Guidelines Encounter uses on its tours: for example, speaking for yourself and not for a group. Because of the tone of the conversation that followed, I felt comfortable staying at the table and engaging with other committed Jews in a discussion about the current situation and the historical context. I hope to have more of these conversations throughout my last year at Grinnell, and into the future.