From One Jewish 18-Year-Old to Another

As the long awaiting April 1st decision date creeps closer and closer, there is a renewed sense of excitement as high schools seniors across the country finalize their college choices and begin binge-buying their chosen university’s apparel.  The days of rigid school schedules and high school cliches are coming to a close, and we’re ready to start the next chapter of our lives.

Like all other high school seniors, I will enter a college campus this fall embarrassingly clueless, overly excited, and intimidated by the endless opportunities that will be offered to me.  I’ll get lost on campus, lose my ID card, and probably lock myself out of my dorm room multiple times.

But most of all, I’m nervous.  As someone who boasts a love for Israel and thoroughly enjoys advocating for the Jewish state, the thought of committing myself to a place that could so viciously attack my beliefs is scary.  No one has ever approached me for the sole purpose of belittling my views on Israel.  I have never met anyone who will just as strongly condemn Israel as I will defend her.  More than anything, I have never been in a situation where I have been ashamed to be Jewish.

Across the country, college campuses are becoming more volatile in regards to anti-Israel views.  Freshman walking around the quad this fall may find die-ins, mock eviction notices, apartheid walls, and various other vulgar means by which those instigating acts of hatred, not peace, get their message across to the collegiate masses.  East Coast, West Coast, No Coast, it’s virtually impossible to escape.

I know it’s hard.  College is supposed to be a fresh start, where you can find your individuality within a realm of almost complete independence.  You want to get out of your comfort zone, join new activities, meet new people, and explore all that your college town has to offer.  Fitting in is your number one priority, whether you admit it or not.

Even if you think you’re ready, I don’t think there’s any way to truly anticipate how much anti-Israel activity will affect you.  Whether you are an avid Zionist with an ever-growing admiration for Israel, learned about Israel in religious school, visited with your youth group, celebrated Israel day at summer camp, or merely feel a loose obligation to the Jewish state because of your faith, these connections are important.  They may not even be on your radar; maybe they’re lurking in the depths of your subconscious.

And when you see anti-Israel activity in a place you call home for the first time, these connections will be challenged.  Your mind begin to race, utterly befuddled by the magnitude that their words had on you.  Maybe you’ll begin to question your previous unwavering support to the Jewish state, or perhaps you’ll totally disregard it.

As a future campus advocate, I urge you to take the matter into your full consideration; to find a way to ask the tough questions and receive the answers you need, to learn how to show others why you care, to ensure that your campus remains a safe place for students like yourself.

This past year has shown that silence will not shield you from anti-Israel aggression.  Jewish facilities and people across the country have been attacked, regardless of their actual affiliation with Israel.  They don’t care that you may have distanced yourself from the Jewish state: you will not be protected by apathy or neutrality.  Do not hide behind unspoken words, rise up to the occasion and act.

But why?  Why should I care how a country half a world away, whose people I feel no connection with and whose politics seem irrelevant to my 18-year-old sphere of influence?

Because we need you.  We need people like you to speak out against the injustices that have become commonplace on campus.  Our IDF soldiers are battling for survival overseas; we must fight in a war of ideas that is vital to the success of Israel.

So next year if the inevitable time comes that you see anti-Israel activity on campus and you feel uncomfortable, find someone to provide you answers.  If a Boycott Divestment Sanctions motion comes to your school’s student government, ensure that it does not pass.  Do not allow your campus to become a place where Stars of David are hidden out of fear and Jewish students walk with their heads down and their mouths shut.  Stop the madness before it spirals out of control, kick back the voices of hatred before they drown out any hope for peace.

I know it’s a lot to ask, but you can do it.  Fight the urge to grow apathetic, and instead take this opportunity to educate yourself and those around you.  We stand with Israel despite the struggles, because we know what a miracle it is to say that the Jews finally have a place they can call home.

About the Author
Rachel is an avid Zionist and travel enthusiast.