Evading bombs in study of peace
The sound of an iron dome intercepting a rocket was part of daily life for Palmerston North woman Anna Baldwin last month.
The 24-year-old Massey University student was in Israel completing field work for her masters thesis in international relations, Dialogue for Peace.
She would hear a "a big bang . . . kind of like a car backfiring but a bit more intense" 10 to 15 times a day.
The sound was an iron dome intercepting the rockets sent by Hamas.
"When the iron dome would go off everyone would cheer," she said.
Baldwin arrived as conflict between Israel and Gaza escalated.
"The day I got there was the day of the funeral for the three Israeli teenage boys who were murdered.
"A couple of days later there was a retaliation kill of a Palestinian boy.
"It went from a funeral to absolute conflict."
Despite bomb sirens going off and having to be escorted into bomb shelters every now and then, the 24-year-old said she felt safe in East Jerusalem.
She travelled by bus everywhere, seeing the "true culture".
"You'd get on a bus and then all of a sudden about 10 IDF [Israel Defence Force] soldiers would jump on with AK47s."
The dangers in Israel were not the only thing she witnessed.
As part of her research Baldwin was looking at how there needed to be a space for religion within peace-building efforts.
She worked with the Inter-faith Encounter Association and Inter-religious Co-ordinating Council of Israel, witnessing discussions between Muslims and Jews, where they talked about their religions and what Jerusalem means to them.
"It was really surprising seeing how little each of them knew about each other's religions."
In terms of research, it was perfect, she said.
The people who attended the discussions felt helpless, and this was a way for them to do something.
"I think the most intense moment was when I was at a group discussion at a Hebrew university and a bomb siren went off. There were a lot of Palestinians in that discussion, most 18-year-old girls, they were getting phone calls from parents, terrified."
Baldwin finishes her masters in international development in February, after which she hopes to head back to the Middle East.
Baldwin is the daughter of Bulls flying doctor Dave Baldwin.
She wants to work for the United Nations.