Where do we go from here?

Dear America,

I sit here fearful and angry, watching the unfolding campus protests. How is it that in Israel, despite the constant threat of rocket attacks, I somehow feel relieved to not be in the US. I worry that America is becoming unsafe for Jews. With antisemitism on the rise, there is only a short window to instill change before it’s too late and these dangerous behaviors become the accepted norm.

Antisemitism is no new phenomenon. For centuries, generations have experienced waves of hatred and violence. The rise of the “woke” movement brought hope of further acceptance and support for American Jews. Historically, we as a minority have been pioneers in fighting for freedom, equality, and justice for others. Yet, following the October 7th massacre, it appears the people who we stood behind have left us to fend for ourselves.

Recently, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) came out with staggering statistics about antisemitism. According to the report, 2023 saw a record-breaking 8,873 antisemitic incidents (recorded) in the US, the most incidents reported in a year since the ADL began tracking in 1979, and the situation is only worsening. How have the warriors fighting for the end of discrimination and equality not only accepted this, but joined the attacks?

Yes, Israel’s counter response  has arguably been problematic on different levels. The loss of innocent Palestinians is tragic, as is the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Many Israelis agree and protest the government in frustration. However, it is unacceptable to say that we (the Israelis) deserved the horrific events of October 7th, no matter what one accuses Israeli policy of. Since day one, we have been fighting for our survival. What happened on October 7th, when 1,163 individuals of all backgrounds were brutally murdered in the cruelest ways, is inexcusable.

To make it worse, less than 48-hours after the attacks, hundreds of people went to the streets, jeering at the pro-Israel mourners, celebrating the heinous actions of a terrorist organization, calling for more so called “resistance”. Cheering the barbaric murder of one thousand Jews is purely and unequivocally antisemitic.

At the start of the war, we heard stories of Jewish students being barricaded in the library, receiving death threats, as well as experiencing physical and verbal harassment. In November, 73% of Jewish college students had either witnessed or experienced antisemitism on campuses. Since October 7th, there have been 1,590 (reported) antisemitic attacks on campuses, a 700% increase from this time last year.

Today, it has reached a new dimension of violence and hatred. Jewish students are forced into hiding, fearing what they will face if they show up to classes on campus. And the craziest part of it all, most of these individuals have little, if any, connection to Israel. So why are they being targeted?

The policies the Israeli government has implemented are exactly that – the policies of the government, not of the Jewish people. Those who have been using the Israeli government’s actions as justification for their hatred and violence towards Jews are pure and unequivocal antisemites, including those participating in the protests on college campuses. Every university administration who has allowed for these violent protests to take place, have failed to provide a safe environment for Jewish students, and instead have fueled and exacerbated the situation and MUST be held accountable.

Before my studies, I was looking to attend US-based universities. However, at the time, I was weary of the growing anti-Israel sentiment and intolerance ingrained in many of the institutions and individuals. Today, as I watch the situation unfold, I am relieved with my decision to study in Israel. However, I cannot give up on my home country and on the safety and security of openly being a Jew in the Western world, especially back home in America.

According to a poll of 1250 college students from around the US, the Gaza War isn’t of major concern to most American students. In fact, for 87%, it came in last with eight other areas viewed as more important to them. I find comfort that for the majority, ironically, racial justice and civil rights came in 4th on the list. We need to address this silent majority and educate them on the meaning of Zionism and the historical connection of the Jewish people to our indigenous homeland, Israel. So many distorted facts are being spewed. We need others to be willing to understand and help fight the hatred and growing antisemitism we are facing. It won’t be through protests and demonstrations that we accomplish this, but rather with dialogue and bridge building. We must step up and take action to curtail the small minority sparking antisemitic behavior and poisoning the unassuming masses. Otherwise, the words NEVER AGAIN may become meaningless!

About the Author
Natanya Granof is 26, and grew up in the Chicago suburbs. At 18, she made Aliyah and worked in the security field for 4 years. She is currently a third-year Government student at Reichman in the Argov Fellows Program. She also helps bring influencers to Israel to combat antisemitism on social media.
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