I was in Israel, wandering the Jaffa area of Tel Aviv, when my brother called. The evening before, an air raid siren had pierced the air, but tonight things were calm: couples pushing strollers, a guy with a ponytail at a sidewalk café strumming a guitar. Off in the distance, I could hear the sounds of a soccer game at Bloomfield.

No fans were allowed inside as a safety precaution. After all, the country was at war, even if it didn’t feel like it. My brother wanted to know what I had learned. I was there to report on the events of October 7, 2023, the largest single-day massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. In retaliation, the Israeli military was now methodically moving across Gaza, flattening entire neighborhoods. I struggled for a succinct answer. Back home, the conflict had seemed so distilled it was almost simple.

One could see it as a battle over land or an age-old conflict between adherents of two of the world’s major religions. But on the ground, where people who had lived through rocket attacks still knew Palestinians as their neighbors, the reality was far more complex.

Hopefully, some of that nuance shows through in my dispatch from Israel. I believe it’s important for journalists like me to face life and the issues we cover in all their complexity. Here at Deseret Magazine, we try to contribute to that by filling gaps in mainstream media coverage, whether that means elevating the region we call home or exploring the role faith plays in the world.

Which is why each April we dedicate an issue to the topic of faith, and how it animates the lives of believers today. In addition to my story, this year’s faith issue includes an in-depth profile of a small D.C. law firm that is reshaping how Americans think about religious liberty. As contributing writer Mariya Manzhos explains, Becket has been defending religious freedom for Catholics, Evangelicals, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews and Native Americans for 30 years — all pro bono — and has a string of significant Supreme Court wins to show for it. Religious liberty is sometimes criticized as a smokescreen for Christian conservatives to preserve discriminatory practices, but Mariya traveled to Globe, Arizona, to look into an ongoing case, in which Becket is defending the right of an Apache tribe to protect sacred land from a massive mining project.

I’m also proud of A Place of Refuge, a photo essay from Oakland, California, a troubled city on the western fringe of our region. Featuring the work of Nicoló Sertorio and J Michael Tucker, these images show how faith leaders across denominations are dedicating their ministry to lifting up a once mighty city now blighted by crime and poverty.

Rounding out the issue are two essays I hope you’ll read, starting with Yale professor Samuel Wilkinson’s reconciliation of the tension between his belief in God and his study of the theory of evolution. Also, Stephen Courtright and Paul Lambert argue that religious groups may offer the answer to one of the most charged issues of our day: diversity and inclusion efforts.

Months after returning from Israel, I still think of my brother’s question that night in Tel Aviv. I had seen the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock. I had visited the Garden of Gethsemane and the Mount of Olives. But what had struck me most was something I saw in Tel Aviv: Jews eating in cafes owned by Muslims, synagogues and mosques on the same street. We all hold different beliefs, but when we relate to each other as humans, those differences don’t have to be a reason for conflict. We have so much more in common than we realize. In Tel Aviv, I found a city where people of different beliefs are neighbors, not enemies. Maybe there’s a lesson in that for us all.

This story appears in the April 2024 issue of Deseret Magazine. Learn more about how to subscribe.