Masters student Richard Thyme details research trip to Israel

Richard Thyme was one of three Masters students who undertook the trip with Dr Alan Craig.

Richard is studying MA International Relations. The other two students who partook in the trip were Adam Leake (MA Conflict, Development and Security) and James Wright (MA Security, Terrorism and Insurgency).  

In June 2014, I went on a research trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories as part of our module ‘The Politics of the Israel-Palestine Conflict’. This is one of the only such modules available anywhere in the UK.

The trip was planned, completely by accident, at an extremely interesting but tense period in this ongoing conflict. On the day we arrived, three teenagers from a settlement in the West Bank had been kidnapped and, as it turned out later, murdered. This gave us first-hand experience of what the tension in this area is like at such times.

Dr Alan Craig used his extensive contact network and excellent negotiating skills to provide a programme which was intellectually stimulating and ideologically varied, enabling us to look at the conflict from every perspective. We were given a tour by Ir Amin from a National Non-Governmental Organisation ( NGO). This included some of the settlements in the West Bank surrounding Jerusalem to see how they affect the possible outcomes of peace negotiations. Later in the week we met some volunteers from an Israeli peace organisation who work in the West Bank opposing military activity in Palestinian areas.

We had two meetings with the relevant authorities in the conflict. The first one was in the Israeli Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem where we were given an Israeli perspective on the current dynamic of the peace process (including the EU’s position towards Israel). My personal highlight was a trip into the West Bank city of Ramallah, where we met with several senior Palestinian politicians who gave us their perspective during several lengthy meetings.

However our time was not confined to solely meeting people. We visited Tel Aviv and neighbouring Jaffa (a short 45 minute drive from Jerusalem) and went down to Masada, an ancient fortification in Southern Israel which is important in Israeli national memory. We also visited the Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem.

The trip enabled me to really get to grips with the issues thrown up by the conflict, something which is impossible to do without visiting. This module was one of the reasons for choosing Leeds and the fact that we went on this trip has been the highlight of my time studying here. I’m very grateful to the whole department and especially to Alan Craig for making it happen.