Before moving to Jerusalem four years ago, Matt Rees reported on the doings of Wall Street, where battles are conducted in corporate boardrooms, where raids mean speedy acquisition of large blocks of a targeted company's stock and where dramatic changes in people's lives take place during "black" days in volatile financial markets.
Now, just as Rees was getting used to the demands of his new job as Time's Jerusalem bureau chief, he has had a baptism by fire as Israel and the Palestinian territories slide deeper into their worst cycle of bloodshed since the intifadeh of 1987-93. "I've been here since 1996," says Welsh-born Rees, 33. "While there've been occasional flare-ups in that time, this is certainly the biggest wave of violence I've seen."
With "the biggest story since the beginning of the peace process seven years ago" dropping in his lap so soon, Rees notes: "I've been lucky to have the great support of our Palestinian correspondent, Jamil Hamad, and military affairs reporter Aharon Klein, as well as advice from my predecessor, Lisa Beyer, who's now in New York." Still, the story is a particularly sad one for a correspondent in a region where historic steps on the path to peace have been taken in recent years. "I've been touched by the deep sense of disappointment — almost depression — in my Israeli and Palestinian friends," says Rees. "The gradual development of their hopes over the last seven years has come crashing down. The challenge now is to describe the big political battle, while also coloring it with the struggle of people I know personally to keep their hope alive."
As the latest violence intensified, Rees did find something to smile about. One of my fellow editors in New York called to check on the safety of the bureau staff and cautioned against taking unnecessary risks by trying to get into the office. "But," says Rees, "both office manager Jean Max and I live in areas on the Green Line between East and West Jerusalem where clashes have occurred. I said we'd be safer in the bureau than at home. I think it's the first time I've had a boss tell me not to come to the office."
Needless to say, the reporting that has made possible this week's cover stories has not come from the safety and seclusion of our offices. Rees and his team have been out on the streets and into the many trouble spots and behind the scenes to bring you this vivid account of the drama now unfolding in Israel and the Palestinian territories. From my safe haven in London I have nothing but admiration for their dedication, a feeling I'm sure our readers will share.
, Editor, TIME Atlantic