From Darkness To Light

The unusually blue sky blended in with the bold blue Magen David as hundreds of student pushed studying for the uncomfortably approaching finals aside for a day of celebrating an Israel that is everything we could have ever dreamed of and everything our ancestors needed, but never had. Binghamton University celebrated Israel’s Independence and the dream that has transcended into our reality, the irregular reality of both human and Jewish history, which we live in and, admittedly, often take for granted.

After months of planning, fundraising, creating, innovating and redesigning the largest student run event on campus, a collective group of Jewish students, united by a religion and a people yet often divided by its growing complex politics, came together in an unprecedented sign of unity amidst a year defined by fear, uncertainly and attacks on our core as anti-Israel, not Pro-Palestinian, sentiments emerged in an unprecedented magnitude on our campus.

The emergence of SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine) changed the game. We needed to refine our efforts- and we did as a community.

We saw the attacks against Zionism, while at its core an attack on Israel, but more broadly, we witnessed attacks on the Jewish future, our Jewish future. We are the generation of, and defined by, Israel. If Israel is proved as illegitimate through delegmitimization efforts by our foes, and if their bigotry convinces our generations of Jews, the foundation of the Jewish future will be diminished, bleak, and in existential danger. While many could easily mistake our efforts as political in nature, but the truth is its so much more than mere politics; its about Jewish survival and the unparalleled reality in which we live where the hope our ancestors sung about in the face of danger now shields us as SJP protests and disrupts the singing of Hatikvah at our celebration as we look at the Israeli flags galore dancing in wind.

Spewing hate, all with the hope of the delegitimization of the State of Israel, SJP preluded our event by a full day of tabling the day prior where I was personally, along with Prime Minister Netanyahu and IDF soldiers, called a terrorist simply because I am a Zionist, and a proud one at that. Ironically, this happened on Yom Hazikaron, the day where we commemorate the fallen soldiers of Israel and those murdered in terrorist attacks. While I was honored to be put into the same category of my personal hero and broader concept of every IDF solider to ever serve, the context ruined the moment.

Walking directly through our event with hateful signs, we blasted our music even louder, the danced with more energy as we linked arms to celebrate one simple and indisputable truth, today we have a state of our own, it is Jewish, it is democratic and it is here to stay. Period.

And with the tunes and words of the Moshav Band, invoking image from the classic Nefesh B’ Nefesh videos; we felt the collective Jewish identity that defines a reality for disposition of twenty-first century Jews in the Diaspora under fire for believing and fighting for the right to a Jewish State in our ancestral homeland, as if the right to self-determination is a crime.

I am so proud to be a part of a community that can come together, despite often polarizing internal difference, and celebrate the underlying truth for all of us; the unifying truth that we love Israel, not just because it is our homeland, not just because we are Jewish, but because we know her truth and we love her for it. And so we save all other 364 days of the year for passionate discourse, disparities between our internal left and our internal right, knowing that this one day, that moment I walked away in a rush to a class I was already 36 minutes late to because I simply could not leave was worth it as I watched 300 students from parts of the Jewish and political spectrum dance and sing to the Moshav Band’s words that have never been so truth or so perfect.

“But I keep holding on to, these dreams I can’t let go,” preached words that spoke to the core of an event, the core of a tremulous year where everything we stood for was attacked, and overall the core of the Jewish people; the hope and dream “to be a free people in our own land.”

And for a moment, for that sliver of time with the Moshav Band’s music blasting, the sinking sun behind the Binghamton mountains projecting a surreal glare, just for that moment, all was well in a community that had stressed and feared so much out of love for Israel. And Hakol Letova (All was good).

Yom Haatzmaut at Binghamton University was sponsored and planned by Hillel at Binghamton with support from many outside organizations.

Justin Hayet is a Pro-Israel leader at Binghamton University and can be contacted at

About the Author
Justin Hayet is the recipient of CAMERA's 2015 David Bar Ilan Award for Outstanding Campus Activism and is featured in Jerusalem U's newest film "Crossing the Line 2."
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