Now she calls Tel Aviv home.

Robbins leads a tour group in Tel Aviv.
Robbins leads a tour group in Hebron.

In May 2011, Melanie Robbins boarded a plane bound for Israel and the heady challenge of a Drew International Seminar (DIS). Three weeks later, she returned home to Massachusetts with a job offer in hand.

Landing a full-time gig while spending a few weeks in a foreign country might take a touch of good luck. But Robbins, who graduated in 2011, laid the groundwork for her future employment while still an undergraduate at Drew.

As a junior she was chosen to be a fellow at Drew’s Center for Religion, Culture and Conflict. Working in coordination with a Tel Aviv–based peace organization called Windows: Channels for Communication, Robbins created a workshop for high school students designed to present the Arab-Israeli conflict from both sides. She also networked and fundraised as a volunteer for the group, aka Windows for Peace.

When she arrived in Israel for the DIS, the Drew contingent met with Windows for Peace. Then, just before returning home, she got called in for an interview. “It was just really good timing,” says Robbins, “that they had job opening while I was visiting.”

Robbins says her understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict evolved considerably at Drew. When she first traveled to Israel as a high school sophomore, she embraced what she describes as “some pretty right-wing views.” Even by her junior year, she says, she still had trouble describing Israel’s conduct in the Palestinian territories as an occupation.

“I began to question some of the narratives I had been taught and assumptions I had held,” Robbins says. “The reality here is that there is clearly an occupation that needs to end because there’s a ticking time bomb, so to speak. If it doesn’t end soon, the real future of the democratic Israeli state will no longer be possible.”

Robbins worked at Windows until last December, when she took a job as development and communications director with Peace Now, an organization that promotes a two-state solution to peace. Before moving to Tel Aviv, Robbins had planned to spend a year teaching in an urban school as part of the City Year program. “In the end, I had to follow my heart,” she says. “My heart was in Israel and Palestine.” —Christopher Hann