I’m calling out Jews my age in the States

This may be the most controversial thing I’ve ever written, but at this point in time, as a combat soldier in the IDF feeling the pressure as Israel’s second front up north with Lebanon heats up, knowing that I have fought for the last 8 months of my life, which were full of uncertainty, tough times, friends getting injured, stress for my parents, and that all this hasn’t even reached the crescendo. The threat that Hezbollah poses can almost make Hamas look small in significance. I know that all these feelings weigh on me and my friends’ shoulders.

While all this looms over my head, there is a third front where this war is being fought, and this battleground, in some ways though the least physically threatening, may have the longest-lasting impact in the long run. I am talking about college campuses in the United States.

It’s no secret that those who pursue higher education are significantly more likely to be CEOs of the future, judges in the justice system, and tomorrow’s politicians.

When the wave of anti-Zionistic as well as sometimes even antisemitic rhetoric spread like wildfire across the States over the past couple of months, I, like I’m sure many American Jews, for the first time in their lives, started questioning the security they’ve been accustomed to their entire lives. When reading the ADL’s report on anti-Semitism, it doesn’t matter what type of Jew you are, we all raise an eyebrow.

As a young person who is curious, passionate, and invested in the future of American Judaism, I decided to look a little deeper into these college protests. The first thing I found when looking at the encampments was that the number of students actually participating in these encampments was marginal, most maxing out at a couple of hundred. In contrast, Jews on almost every one of these college campuses easily have a bigger stake in the student population. Take Columbia, for example: Columbia’s 1,500 undergraduate Jewish students comprise 23% of the undergraduate student population, and the 3,500 Jewish graduate students comprise 16% of the graduate student body.

Why is it that instead of Jews standing up for themselves, I see frat bros in the news being the ones to stand up? Why do I see YU up with 150% in enrollment this year, young kids my age running to comfort without confrontation instead of standing up to these bigoted views?

Nobody asked my friends or me whether we wanted to put our lives on the line to fight terror. We’re doing it because we have to, because our survival depends on it. If Israel lays down its guns, it would get obliterated, and we’d see a second Holocaust. If Hamas laid down its guns, we’d see the war end, and we could start to work on a better future for the Gazans, hopefully leading to lasting peace.

I’m asking students my age in the States while we sit on tanks and armored personnel carriers, and you guys sit in on lectures. Please do your part as well. They say that the pen is mightier than the sword, and words are weapons. I ask of you to use the opportunity to use these tools since you guys have the privilege to. If only we could sit down and talk with the children in Gaza our age. If only the population in Gaza, of which nearly 50% are under 18, were raised since 2007 (that’s practically their entire lives!) in an education system that encourages violence, hatred, and murder, while Israel’s education system, which yes, is far from perfect, is still devoted to educating its children on the values of tolerance and coexistence, teaching them to respect all people. Unfortunately, I don’t have the privilege of a conversation.

I’m asking not out of naivety. Trust me, I understand that most of these protesters are set in their views. I want you to appeal to the much larger majority of your fellow peers who are undecided, who don’t have a real opinion. You can raise awareness and educate. Trust me, I understand that you just signed up to go to college and get an education, not to be a social justice warrior. But trust me, I didn’t sign up to fight this war because I wanted to. So together let’s stand up for justice because that’s what we have to do, for our futures, and for our children’s futures. What kind of world do we want them to live in?

About the Author
Asher Woolf made Aliyah with his family at the age of 14 from California and currently serves in the IDF.
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