Graham Liddell graduated from Grand Valley in the spring of 2013 with a double major in English and writing and a minor in Arabic. At the time, he was unaware that his uncommon combination of studies would lead to the start of his career in Palestine.
After graduation, Liddell interned at the Palestine Center in Washington, D.C., where, among other projects, he conducted extensive research on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. It was during his internship that he learned about the Ma’an News Agency, a wire service that operates 24 hours a day and is one of the main independent news sources from Palestine.
Later that summer, he applied to the Ma’an News Agency for a staff writer/editor position and four months later, after a competitive interview process, he was on a plane to Palestine to start his career.
In October 2013, Liddell arrived in Palestine with two suitcases and a guitar.
“When I landed [in Tel Aviv], I took a shuttle to Jerusalem and was dropped off a quarter-mile away from the checkpoint into Palestine,” he said. “As I was struggling with my luggage, a guy around my age passed by and smiled, greeting me in Arabic.
“When I responded in Arabic and told him I was going to Bethlehem, he was nice enough to help me with my luggage through the checkpoint and direct me on my way. ‘Welcome to Palestine,’ I thought to myself.”
Now, Liddell works out of Ma’an’s office in Bethlehem, where he edits and travels around the Middle East to report on stories and events.
Grand Valley education
Liddell credits Grand Valley and his professors for helping him reach where he is today.
“The English department has been a key part of my journey from an academically interested bystander to an active contributor to public discourse,” Liddell said.
He also said that professors in the Modern Languages and Literatures department were influential in awakening and nourishing his interest in the Arab world and in the Arabic language – interests that he admits he would have never imagined having before enrolling at Grand Valley.
David Alvarez, associate professor of English, said Liddell was interested in literature’s ability to shed light both on history and on current events.
“I have no doubt that he will do Grand Valley proud in his current work as a reporter in Palestine and in whatever long-term career he eventually chooses to devote himself to, whether it’s in journalism or in academia or in some other line of productive work,” he said.
Liddell said he wants to become fluent in Arabic during his tenure in Palestine. Later, he plans to study comparative literature in graduate school and hopes to someday teach at a university.