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Welcome to The Olive Press

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Peering over at the Middle East, many see a tangle of age-old hostilities with some newfangled terrorist groups looking for a toehold in the rubble.

People quickly tire of reading about that, and I can see why.

But there is so much more to the story here. At its core, it’s about the people – who they are, what they aspire to, why they believe something so strongly that they are willing to suffer or even die for it.

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There is Avner Goren, a former chief archaeologist for Israel who is drawing on the cultural knowledge and Arabic he gained during his years in the Sinai with Bedouin to facilitate Israeli-Palestinian projects around Jerusalem. There is Daniel Fares, a father of 15 children in Gaza who misses his job at Coca-Cola in Israel and still watches the Israeli news every day. And there is Shireen Qawasmi, a proud, fashionable mother of three from Hebron who says she’ll be the first to join another intifada against Israel.

Their stories – which will appear here in the days ahead – are not all savory, nor are they always uplifting. But by putting a face on the Middle East, and especially the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I hope to be able to help you find humanity amid the pressures of this storied land. And I hope you will learn, through their stories, a bit more about the politics, history, and religion that shape their lives and the broader region.

As with olives, there are pits and skins and bitterness. But when the olive press has done its work, we are left with something nourishing and flavorful.

So, dig in and enjoy the feast! Sahtein, as Palestinians would say, or b’tayavon as the Israelis have it.

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