As a Jewish child, I was taught every year about the significance of Passover. I was taught about the Jews’ 210 years of slavery in Egypt, the burning bush, Moses demanding that Pharaoh let the Jewish people go, the ten plagues, the Jews eventual freedom. This story was taught to show us that Passover is a time of celebration because we were once slaves, but are now free. But if we are truly free, why does it seem like most of my fellow Jews have forgotten that fact?
I’m a proud Jewish, Zionist student on a North American college campus in the 21st century, yet I sense a feeling of apathy, lethargy, and indolence among my fellow Jewish college students. The fact is that there are groups on college campuses that spread lies and misinformation about the Jewish State of Israel, groups that demonize her and make it seem like the Jewish State is the biggest international criminal and violator of human rights the world has ever known. Yet, most college students that should care and that I expect to be in my corner when I need them, just turn a blind eye and go on their way.
I have gotten every excuse in the book from these students: “I’m too busy,” “Israel does not concern me, I’m American,” “I don’t like getting involved in politics,” “you care too much.” I have heard it all. Yet it seems to me that these people have forgotten what Israel represents and what is at risk if we don’t speak up. The bottom line is that throughout our history, we Jews have been expelled, persecuted, and oppressed in countries throughout the world. That all changed however with the dynasty of the Jewish Kingdoms in the Middle East. Sadly, once our 2nd temple was destroyed, we were dispersed once again, oppressed and exiled in dozens of countries, slaughtered mercilessly in the Crusades, massacred in the pogroms, and most recently, six million innocent Jews were slaughtered in the Holocaust. We Jews were homeless once again, at least until 1948, when the Jewish State of Israel was re-established.
Now that we have a Jewish State once again, we must not sit idly by while lies are being spread about Israel. You might not be ‘interested in politics,’ but as the great Greek statesman Pericles once said, “Just because you do not take an interest in politics, doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” History has proven testament to the fact that without a Jewish home, we Jews are susceptible to the bigotry, and desires of the nation in which we live. Even if those desires mean slaughtering Jews. And you do not even have to look at history to understand that politics will eventually take an interest in you. According to a recent detailed Anti-Semitism report that was written by Ariela Keysar and Barry A. Ksomin, 54% of Jewish-American college students personally experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism last year. In addition, this report further states that college students are five times more likely to encounter anti-Semitism in the U.S. than any other age group. It is time to understand that hatred of Israel stems from the hatred of Jews. Yes, everybody has a right to criticize Israel’s policies, Israelis do that all the time. But questioning Israel’s right to exist, demonizing the state, and holding Israel to a double standard is none other than blatant anti-Semitism. We must also recognize that Israel is the only safe haven for persecuted Jews throughout the world, and has demonstrated that fact time and time again in its short history.
Yes, I know there might be methods used by groups on campus to intimidate us, scare us off, and get us to stop speaking up, but we must not give in! Throughout our history we have been bullied and persecuted, but have risen up again and won. This time will be no different. Whether you’re left-wing, right-wing, center, religious, or secular – that should make no difference. We must unite, speak up, and take back the narrative. If we do not, public opinion will turn heavily against us, the bigots on our college campuses will win, and the people of the world will turn on the Jewish State. And if there ever comes a day that the Jewish State falls, we Jews will face a future of uncertainty once again.
So in honor of the holiday of Passover, let us speak up as one. Let us make sure that we truly remain free and never have to live with the fear of persecution or oppression. If you do not want to do it for yourself, then do it for the Jewish people. Do it for our ancestors who were killed because they did not have a homeland to escape to. Do it for your descendants, so that they too can see the land you had the pleasure of seeing. The time to stand up and speak up is not tomorrow, it is not next week – it is now. Join me and together, let’s stand up for Israel, spread the truth and change the conversation.
Chag Sameach and may we spend next Passover in Jerusalem!