Gabriella Davoudpour: Tell us about yourself — where are you from, what are you studying, what do you like to do on your free time?
Dalia Zargari: I’m from Brooklyn, NY, and I am studying chemical engineering. In my free time, I like to do anything not involving school work. I’ve been on Hasbara, ZOA, and Birthright trips, so I like to visit Israel as much as I can.
GD: How did you get involved with SSI?
DZ: A couple of years ago, I was at a Chabad meeting, and heard that there was an Israel club, so I went over to hear more about it, and was invited to their meeting. I went to the meeting, and even since then, I’ve been a part of SSI, and I love it.
GD: What inspired you to be part of SSI?
DZ: I’ve always been to Zionist schools, and always grew up with Zionism in the house. My father is Israeli, so it’s always been something that was instilled in me from a young age. It was weird not having that community, so when I found SSI, I knew that I had to become a part of it because Israel is a part of me. It creates a community, and allows me to connect with people that I relate to, people who share the same love for Israel that I do, and that is truly an amazing thing!
GD: How would you say the climate is at your college?
DZ: There definitely are a lot of people who don’t really care about anything related to Israel, but there is an active SJP, and their president is very hateful towards Israel. They come and protest our events, and also have an apartheid week, so it’s not the best. It’s been loud and noisy at moments, but we also have our calm moments as well.
GD: Has your SSI chapter faced any attacks?
DZ: Yes. Before I joined the club, we had a speaker and there was a lot of screaming and attempts to prevent us from speaking our piece. The second time we brought the speaker back, we did have to take measures to ensure that the same thing wouldn’t happen again.We get a lot of comments, but it really does depend on their mood.
GD: What’s one event that really stood out to you in your SSI lifespan?
DZ: We had Dani Dayan (Consul General of Israel in New York) come and speak last semester, and we were able to reach a lot of people. The topic was how anti-zionism and anti-semitism are the same thing, and we felt that Dani Dayan really answered the questions and said it how it is. We made sure that we had extra security so that we wouldn’t be silenced, and we advertised the event a lot, which led to a huge turnout.
GD: What has influenced you throughout your life that has made you so passionate about your pro-activism?
DZ: My schools were always very Zionist, and Zionism was everywhere for me from a young age. Going to Israel so often and falling in love with it helped me reach the conclusion on my own, and made me realize that I am doing the right thing. It being brought out in my school really enhanced it, and made my passion grow stronger.
GD: What impact has pro-Israel activism, in general, had on you?
DZ: On campus, I have a mix of feelings. Some days when were tabling it’s a little sad because there are people that truly think were committing genocide, and they wont even let us respond. They scream at us and walk away. It is hurtful, but more importantly, we’ve had really good conversations with people. We’ve had meaningful conversations with people that are to hearing more, and have been able to make connections with people that are just as passionate as we are. I think those moments make me realize that this is important, and that there are people that do want to hear more. Those one on one conversations always remind me to keep doing what I’m doing.
GD: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
DZ: Hopefully living in Israel.
GD: If you could give one piece of advice to all the members of SSI across the country, what would it be?
DZ: Make sure that your faces are out there all the time. Get people to engage with you through tabling, because without it, people won’t know who we are and that we aren’t going away.
*interview has been condensed.