Like other journalists based in Jerusalem and the region surrounding the ancient city, Daniel Estrin is often associated with one overarching, ongoing news headline: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He’s covered many of the latest developments within that continuing story during his time reporting in the Middle East. But there have been many other stories for him to tell over the course of that decade, too.
“Every day surprises me there,” the NPR correspondent and St. Louis native said Wednesday on St. Louis on the Air. “You meet so many different voices and so many different perspectives … and oftentimes you’ll hear, ‘The Israelis think this, the Palestinians think that.’ But actually there are so many different perspectives among Palestinians. There are so many different perspectives among Israelis. And that’s the kind of texture that I like to bring out in my reporting.”
Estrin joined host Don Marsh for a special broadcast in front of a live audience at St. Louis Public Radio during a brief visit to his hometown this week. Along with taking questions from Marsh and from audience members related to his observations in and around Jerusalem, Estrin touched on his childhood and how he wound up becoming a journalist in the first place.
“It took me until the very end of my college career to say this is something that I actually want to do,” he noted. An internship in Boston helped him get his start in the field, and before long he headed to the Middle East to give it a go.
“I had studied Hebrew for many years, I was always fascinated with the place, I’d begun studying Arabic in college, and I thought, ‘How many places in the world can you use Hebrew and Arabic and do journalism?’” Estrin said. “And I landed in Jerusalem, and I remember my first radio story … it was about what’s called the Shimita. It’s a biblical tradition – every seven years, farmers are to not work their soil and let their lands rest.
“And I did a story for Marketplace about how a modern economy deal[s] with this biblical tradition. In Israel this is a tradition that’s kept in all kinds of interesting ways involving a lot of loopholes. So that’s what I reported on. And since that first story on the radio, I have found that theme running through so many of the stories that I’m attracted to – that devotion and interest in ancient tradition and identity.”
Estrin also recalled even earlier moments in his journalistic journey – including several memorable ones from Ladue High School and even elementary school.
“In third grade here in St. Louis I remember [my teacher] assigned us to read the newspaper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, every morning,” he said. “In fifth grade my [friend’s mother,] Judy Newmark, who works for the Post-Dispatch, came to our class and spoke about what it’s like being a journalist, and I remember being fascinated by it.”
The stories he would go on to write for the Panorama – Ladue High School’s paper – are “some of my proudest moments, my best work,” Estrin said, giving his piece about “feng shui in the classroom” as an example.
Listen to the full conversation between Estrin, Marsh and audience members:
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Caitlin Lally give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.