Demonstrators wearing t-shirts depicting a defaced Israeli flag attend a protest against the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, in Frankfurt July 26, 2014..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
I admit that I grew up in a fairly sheltered, well, very sheltered environment within the American Jewish world: I attended Chicago’s Solomon Schechter Day School before my family moved to Boca Raton, Florida, where I attended a modern Orthodox middle school and high school.
This year, I am spending my gap year studying at Midreshet Lindenbaum in Jerusalem, and I plan on attending University of Pennsylvania next fall.
Aside from what I’ve seen in the news and learned about in school, I have never been exposed to the anti-Semitism that exists in the world. Even when making the decision about which college I would attend, a major factor in my decision was whether I would be surrounded with an active Jewish community. Maybe my sheltered upbringing has made me naïve but I never imagined that UPenn (where the student body is almost a third Jewish) would also be a home to such cruel anti-Israel campaigns that cross the line into blatant anti-Semitism. This past October, I was appalled to see pictures like this posted by one of my Facebook friends.
This photo, taken on the UPenn campus, reads: “Each flag represents a Palestinian in Gaza who was murdered by the Israeli Defense Forces between July 8th and August 25th. This latest assault is part of Israel’s siege on Gaza since 2007. The siege of Gaza is part of Israel’s 60 year occupation of Palestine. Join us tonight for a candlelight vigil.”
At that moment, I felt a great deal of concern about what will await me when I get to college next year. I will enter a world that demonizes Israel with no regard for the actions of Israel’s enemies like Hamas and Hezbollah – it’s a world consumed by hatred for Israel, crossing the line into hatred of all Jews; a world that is dedicated to bringing about the demise of the Jewish state and our connection to it. At that very moment, it struck me that my secure bubble which has sheltered me for over 18 years is about to burst.
Anti-Israel activity has taken root in many college campuses.
Ranging from Israel Apartheid Week, Students for Justice in Palestine and American Muslims for Palestine (the leading organization providing anti-Zionist training and education), to BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) clubs, each is not only extremely disturbing, but also very frightening.
I am not saying that I think we should not be talking and debating about Israel, but what I see isn’t an effort to engage or find solutions within common ground, rather, it’s pure intimidation that crosses the line into anti-Semitism, by completely silencing and isolating the pro-Israel voice.
On February 26, Israel Apartheid Week returns to US college campuses. This is a multi-week effort whose sole purpose is to distribute distorted and false information about Israel’s alleged “apartheid” policies toward Palestinians and to build support for future BDS campaigns. It is a time when Jewish students are targeted in various ways, and their voices are drowned out. They call this education, but it is pure intimidation, which offers no solutions or possibility of dialogue.
I know next year I will encounter situations where people will want to silence me for my support for Israel; where some will attempt to stifle my efforts to raise awareness of the pro-Israel narrative; where there will be student groups whose hateful accusations against Israel cross the line into anti-Semitism, by claiming Israel is guilty of apartheid or genocide and with revolting comparisons to Nazi Germany. I know I must not be afraid – fear only fuels these haters. Silence only encourages more heinous acts.
While I’m of course unsure of what is to come, I am motivated to learn and to involve myself more, so that when I do step on the University of Pennsylvania campus, I will not feel overpowered by the hate, distrust and disgust launched my way, and I will not be intimidated by their tactics, but rather, I will be proud of my Jewish identity and proud to raise my voice for Israel.
I recently viewed the new documentary Crossing the Line 2: The new face of Anti-Semitism on Campus
– a very powerful warning about what is happening on North American campuses. But it is more than that. It is a call to our parents to prepare us, starting long before we reach college. It is critical that they provide us with opportunities to engage in discussions about Israel in a safe environment. And it is essential that they give us the tools to know what to do when we witness or are the targets of campaigns against Israel which cross the line into anti-Semitism.
The author resides in Boca Raton, Florida. She is Jerusalem U’s Gap Year student living in Israel for this past year.