Kayla Duncan, an Emory & Henry senior, was studying in Israel this summer when a conflict erupted between Israel and Hamas in Lebanon over the deaths of three Jewish youths and a Palestinian teenager.
“I was in Jerusalem when they found the (body of the Palestinian) boy,” said Kayla, who was with a group of 12 students from around the world who were studying Arabic during a three-month study abroad program. “It was a scary time.”
On two occasions she had to flee to a bomb shelter. On another occasion, while on a class field trip near the Lebanon border, she witnessed rockets, presumably fired by Hamas, flying into Israel.
She was in Israel throughout the period of tensions created by the deaths of the boys. Nevertheless, in spite of her fears and the war zone in which she found herself, she was happy to be there and would return to the region if offered the chance.
This is what I want to do. I’m majoring in Middle Eastern studies because I want to make a difference there.Kayla DuncanEmory & Henry Senior
Kayla said Emory & Henry shaped her interest in that part of the world by exposing her to the history of the region and what peace there could mean to the rest of the world. Consequently, she sees herself working there someday, perhaps as a member of the State Department or as a foreign research analyst.
“I am fascinated by the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, and although I didn’t think I would have such a first-hand experience with it, I am happy that I had that experience,” she said.
Kayla experienced life in Israel the way Israelis do – attempting to pursue a normal life while often under the threat of conflict. “It was scary at the beginning, but eventually, like everyone, you become desensitized to it. It’s kind of a way of life. We would often joke about it.”
She returned to Emory & Henry with a greater understanding of the issues involved in the long struggle of the region. But more importantly, she said, she has come away more committed to her goal of being a global citizen of change.
“It is one thing to sit here at this safe distance and have a political conversation about the conflict that affects us all, but it is another thing to get your hands dirty and try to do something about it.”
Next year, Kayla travels to Egypt for more language study and a closer look at the culture and issues of the region. “This is who I am now. And I love it.”