Dear Class of 2019,
In the middle of winter, when I would walk to class, I would sometimes pass by small puddles. Covered by a thin layer of ice on black asphalt, I never knew if the puddle was shallow or deep. Either way, for some reason, I had this unexplainable urge to step on it, to see the ice shatter into a jagged, tiny pieces and to hear the ice crackle as the pieces separated.
Talking about Israel on campus often reminds me of these puddles, albeit on drastically different scales. With best friends to new classmates, conversations about Israel can yield extremely rewarding results. Israel provides me an opportunity to elevate, educate, and enrich my campus about an issue and place that is so dear to my heart. Just as with the puddle though, the risks of entertaining a conversation about Israel are substantial. Stepping on the ice, if thin enough and the puddle deep enough can result in a soaked shoe; if the ice is hard enough and slippery enough, it could also cause you to slip and fall. Although the scale of the analogy obviously differs, the principle remains the same. Conversations about Israel can be fantastic, enjoyable, and important, they can also be disastrous. They can ruin your day, your week, or even your semester. They can ruin friendships, relationships, or even ostracize you.
Why is this issue so supercharged? Why do conversations about Israel always need to be political? What makes this issue so dramatically different, volatile, and dangerous compared to others? Are more people killed than in Syria? Are there more women oppressed than in Saudi Arabia? Are there more felons involved than in America? I cannot point to one factor that transcends all others that puts these conversations on such thin ice.
What I can tell you is that meaningful debate about current events should never leave students feeling ostracized, sad, or hurt. Discussions, especially at universities, should enlighten the community and the individuals who call these campuses their home, rather then degrade them. Conversations should be welcomed not feared, encouraged and not discouraged.
For me, I am going to keep on stepping on these puddles. Engaging in conversations about Israel, while the risks are present, is important to me. Having even one person openly listen and discuss with me their feelings, opinions, and perceptions outweighs any soaked shoe or broken wrist that can come from entertaining these conversations. I welcome the arguments and the debates because to me discussions should not be silenced by those who disagree or have a louder voice. To me, discussions should not be suspended out of fear. To me, there is too much antipathy and hatred to be silent. The actions of many have forced me to stand-up and I hope it will cause you to do the same.
Good luck, enjoy, and be strong!