© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
“The Cut” is a weekly reporters notebook-type essay by an Ideastream Public Media content creator, reflecting on the news and on life in Northeast Ohio. What exactly does “The Cut” mean? It's a throwback to the old days of using a razor blade to cut analog tape. In radio lingo, we refer to sound bites as “cuts.” So think of these behind-the-scene essays as “cuts” from Ideastream's producers.

Reporting on, and feeling, the trauma of the Israel-Hamas war

Left-side picture - Jewish Federation of Cleveland
Right-side picture - Cleveland and Northern Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations
Jewish and Palestinian groups rally in Cleveland

There is tremendous suffering in Northeast Ohio in the aftermath of terrorist attacks on Israel by Hamas and Israel's resulting attack in Gaza. Emotions are raw, nerves are frayed and Jews and Palestinians in Northeast Ohio and throughout the world are filled with rage, fear and a sense of helplessness.

This is not only due to the innocent lives lost, but the rise of hatred and demonization against both populations.

In seeing this, I thought about the trauma on both sides of the conflict and what that does to a person's mental and physical well being. That led me to produce a feature, as a health reporter at Ideastream Public Media, on the trauma of this intergenerational conflict. You can hear it Monday during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on 89.7 WKSU and find it Monday morning on ideastream.org.

The question became how two groups who feel so much pain can find a way to move forward and find common ground and maybe, just maybe, break the cycle of pain and violence that each group has suffered.

The problem is such trauma provokes a fight or flight response that puts people into survival mode. And that mindset makes it difficult to see beyond yourself, to understand the pain and suffering of those outside of your particular group. The solution is to see the other side as individuals, as people worthy of understanding, of empathy. During my reporting, I was told this is not about terrorists or extremists. It's about everyday civilians in the Middle East, in Northeast Ohio and beyond, finding a way to see and hear one another.

But as difficult as it is during times of trauma for individuals to see beyond themselves and their own groups, it is difficult to report on such a charged, painful subject. This has been the most challenging feature I have produced because it hits so close to home. I am Jewish and proud of my faith, my people, our heritage, our history. I am also well aware of my people's history of persecution over more than two millennia, culminating in many ways with the Holocaust and the resulting creation of the state of Israel and how important Israel is to my people.

So, as much as I wrote about the need for the Jewish and Palestinian communities to look beyond their fear and anger to connect with one another in a productive way, I needed to do the same.

And this is where objectivity is so important. It serves as a sword and shield against pre-conceived notions, against one's own background and the potential biases that come with it. What I focused on in this story was the civilians suffering on both sides, civilians who want security, justice and peace.

I needed to pause and be thoughtful about this feature. I needed to follow the advice of these experts as well and look beyond my own background and see the other parties in this trauma for who they are; people trying to live their lives, people in pain, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters who want a change for the better.

That is why my feature focuses, in part, on a local group, the Rekindle Fellowship, that has been seeking to do just that. The group was founded in Cleveland in 2019 by Charmaine Rice and Matt Fieldman to bring mid-career professionals from the Black and Jewish communities together to rebuild the historic relationship that was forged in the Civil Rights movement.

They use thoughtful communication between the groups to find common understanding, focusing on what they have in common and how they can work together. They have had some difficult conversations on the Israel-Hamas war recently to try to build understanding on that front, as well. They perhaps provide the framework for how Jewish and Palestinian groups can find common ground somehow, predicated on peace, security and justice.

As difficult as this subject is, as wrenching and emotionally painful as it can be for our community and for people like myself who are trying to cover the topic, communication, empathy and mutual understanding can represent a step forward. It may be just a small step, but I remain hopeful that it is one in the right direction.

And that's how positive change begins.

"The Cut" is featured in Ideastream Public Media's weekly newsletter, The Frequency Week in Review. To get The Frequency Week in Review, The Daily Frequency or any of our newsletters, sign up on Ideastream's newsletter subscription page.

Stephen Langel is a health reporter with Ideastream Public Media's engaged journalism team.