Matt Vogel

Today’s college students and Israel at 75

Third Floor Window, Burack Hillel at 439 College St May 21, 2021 5:25 PM. (courtesy)
Third Floor Window, Burack Hillel at 439 College St May 21, 2021 5:25 PM. (courtesy)

As Israel turns 75 today here is some perspective from my position on campus as the director of Hillel at the University of Vermont.

Today’s college students have effectively only known one Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Today’s college students were born after the second intifada.

Today college students have only known Israel with border security walls.

Today’s college students have not experienced the existential threat of a Jewish homeland being attacked with military force.

Today’s college students faced an onslaught of antisemitism for being Jewish the last time Israel and Gaza had a major armed conflict and it will happen each time conflict in the region flares into violence.

Today’s college students, even if they wanted to, couldn’t travel to Israel for more than half of their time on campus.

Today’s college students weren’t even born yet when I went to Israel on Birthright as a college student in 2001.

Today’s college students, while having very different lived experiences than previously generations, still embrace a vision of peace and security for all in the region.

Today’s college students wear blue and white and all the colors of the rainbow to express their pride and connection to our collective ancestral homeland.

Today’s college students will still be shocked when they order an iced coffee in Israel for the first time.

Today’s college students know that Zionism is way more complicated than Herzl’s original vision.

Today’s college students can hold space for Israelis and Palestinians in their hearts without minimizing either.

Today’s college students are not apathetic about Israel.

I promise you that every Jewish student, whatever their personal practice, has something they feel or want to say about Israel.

Whether they are treated as equals, as valid, and with respect for their inquiries, is up to us.

Do you feel the same way about politics and global affairs as you did when you were 18 years old? If so…wonderful!

If not, perhaps apply that same context to today’s college students as they engage with the world around them for the first time on their own beginning to live their adult lives. These students will not be the same people 75 years from now as they are today. They aren’t even the same people when they graduate as they were when they started college.

75 years is not a long time.

We’ve made it this far which is actually kind of incredible.

Given the history of how Jewish people have lived and died in the world, it does seem miraculous that Jews have a place to exist, perpetually imperfect as it is.

There is much to celebrate after 75 years and much more work to be done for the next 7,500 years after that.

Happy Birthday Israel.

About the Author
Matt Vogel is the Executive Director of Hillel at the University of Vermont and has spent his career supporting Jewish students on campus.
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