The last few weeks have been retrospective. After getting initiated into AEPi, I have gotten many requests from my brothers to teach them the skills and to give them the ammunition to become Zionist activists. I had a few conversations with them already, but one of my brothers asked me the following question: What got me into Zionist activism, and why did I become so passionate about it? One of the concerns that he had was whether or not it was too late for him to get into the fray. I gave him the following answer:
Let me take you back nine years ago. Following my B’nai Mitzvah, I had withdrawn from the Jewish community. I walked away from Hebrew school, from synagogue, and from my identity. After five years of bullying every Sunday morning, I decided that I had enough with the environment. The sight of Hebrew writing made me cringe. I placed my newly minted tefillin and tallit deep into my closet. I threw away all of my Hebrew school books and all of the work that I had done in those five years. More significantly, I told myself that I would never enter the Jewish community again.
Two years later, I was proven wrong. Entering high school, I took up Model United Nations and came to a startling reality; Israel was a target of vicious criticism and media bias. For the first time in my life, I saw people proactively calling the Jewish state as the “second apartheid.” I never thought that my Jewish soul would come free in such a dramatic fashion. It struck a chord because the only thing that I ever got out of those tortuous years in Hebrew school was my understanding that the State of Israel was a statement to the world that the Jewish people would never live in fear again. It was an embodiment of strength, of perseverance, and above all, of survival. Without Israel, the Jewish people would once again be subjected to persecution, execution, and gas chambers. It was at that moment as a freshman that the Zionist fire within me began to burn.
What resulted from that experience was hours of research on all topics regarding Israel. I looked up the full history of the Israeli-Arab conflict and did an in-depth analysis of the arguments surrounding the Israelis and the Palestinians. I would purposefully miss homework assignments and at times, not even sleep, just so I could get more informed. In those four years at The Cambridge School of Weston, I stood as the only Zionist activist, holding my own in discussions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, defended Israel during Cast Lead and the Flotilla Raid, and more importantly, got a handful of my peers to understand the Israeli narrative. By the time I had graduated, I had spent 5 weeks in Israel through USY Israel Pilgrimage, left my position as Secretary General of the Model UN, and was en route to Pitzer College to continue where I left off. I was expecting anti-Zionist backlash when I got there.
Claremont surely did not disappoint, but it was at a caliber that I never experienced before. Israeli Apartheid Week. Boycott, Divest, and Sanction. The worst part was the presence of blatant anti-Semitism, something that I mercifully did not encounter in high school. I had my own experiences wearing an IDF uniform at Gadna, walking through Israel and the West Bank, seeing the anti-Israeli sentiment of Arab populations first-hand, and spending a summer working with Israeli and Palestinian peace activists through Brandeis, and those were still not legitimate enough for even the staunchest leftist, human rights activists of the Claremont consortium, who have called me a racist and a white supremacist. Conversations about Israel turned from passive argumentation to aggressive branding and name calling. Pro-Israel students were specifically targeted by the anti-Israel community, including by members of the faculty.
Thankfully, I was not alone. I had Claremont Students for Israel. I had my best friend in college standing by my side throughout the process. With additional the support of CAMERA, the Zionist Organization of America, and AIPAC, I got the support systems of other pro-Israel college students and acquired activist training to better handle the anti-Zionist college campus. More importantly, all three of those organizations have encouraged me to act. I would not be writing this article if I was not inspired to pursue my love of Israel and fuel my inner fire to defend her. After getting published in the Algemeiner not even a day ago, I realize that the best has yet to come for me and my Zionist activism. I have not slowed down, and I do not intend to stop speaking out against the anti-Israel double standard and calling for true human rights. When you have a passion for something, you stick to it and you never lose sight of the greater goal. Most importantly, you find the right people who will keep fighting with you until the end.
So I dedicate this piece to my AEPi brothers and to every other pro-Israel student who is concerned that they could be starting the Zionist activist lifestyle later than usual. The moral of the story is that even in the most extreme of circumstances, it is never too late to start defending Israel. We need more Zionist activists in our world, and we need them more than ever. Following last week’s 66th Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut, we were all forced to remember the sacrifices made by those who gave their lives to defend the Zionist mission and the Jewish state. I may not have joined the IDF, but I am certainly prouder to be a soldier on the information front doing what I can to preserve Theodore Herzl’s mission.
If you will it, it is no dream. If you wish to join me in the fight against the double standard, then I will help you get there. So will CAMERA. So will ZOA. So will Stand With Us. So will AIPAC. So will the Zionist community as a whole. We will not stop until the Jewish state can finally live in peace.