Projects for Peace: The Vision of Kathryn W. Davis

"My challenge to you is to bring about a mind-set of preparing for peace, instead of preparing for war."

Christa Bryant, journalist and Jerusalem bureau chief

Kathryn Davis Fellow, 2012

Christa Bryant knows what it means to commit fiercely to something. But that didn’t make complete immersion in the School of Hebrew any easier. “The first week, I just wanted to stay in bed all day,” she says. It’s an unusual statement, coming from someone accustomed to pushing past her limits. A dedicated Nordic ski racer since childhood, Christa used to train relentlessly—she nearly qualified for the 2002 Olympics.

Christa describes her experience ten years later, as a 2012 Kathryn Davis Fellow in the School of Hebrew, as the intellectual equivalent of her athletic training. After that first grueling week in the beginner’s course, she began to notice remarkable progress.

Once she decided to hang up her racing bib for good, Christa pursued a career in journalism. The tenacity gained in training propelled her forward as a professional. “I wouldn’t have survived in journalism if it weren’t for skiing,” she says.

Christa has not merely survived; she has thrived. Last year, she achieved her dream of becoming Jerusalem bureau chief for the Christian Science Monitor. Three years as their Middle East editor prepared her to cover events in the region, but she also saw basic fluency in Hebrew as an essential prerequisite for living and working in the Holy Land. Her summer as a Kathryn Davis Fellow gave her a solid grasp of the language. Up next is Arabic—if only she can convince her employer to grant her the time off to another Language Schools session.

Christa feels she needs both Arabic and Hebrew in order to cover the peacemaking process in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. “In a conflict that is shaped so much by different national narratives,” she says, “it is important to be able to understand those narratives in their own language.” Even after years investigating and reporting on the strife that plagues the region, she remains hopeful about the prospects for peace.

Having worked in Israel for over a year, she has met everyone from King Abdullah of Jordan to Lebanese Sunnis back from the Syrian front. She has also started a blog called The Olive Press: finding humanity amid the pressures of the Middle East , which, she says, “has been a good way to put more of a human face on the challenges in this region.”