There’s a common sentiment amongst many older generations that millennials are ill-equipped to make an impact in today’s society. From our strange vernacular to our eccentric mannerisms, the common belief seems to be that we are simply unprepared to perform as well-rounded adults in the real world. As a first-generation American-Israeli, I will admit that many times I felt as if I fit the mold of these criticisms. I went through most of my adolescent years not caring about school and certainly took much of the hard work my parents performed for granted. Even now, as I prepare to graduate from San Diego State University, I remember the challenges I’ve faced in both personal and professional development and wonder if my upbringing led to many struggles early on. But of all the things that are said and discussed regarding my generation, the positive impact we have made for Israel should not be disputed.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend AIPAC’s Policy Conference and witness the strength of the pro-Israel movement. As a representative for my university, I had the privilege of joining 4,000 other delegates in embracing our love for Israel and supporting its safety and security. But as I watched a packed stadium rejoice in our collective efforts, I also realized that many outside of the event do not understand the work we do and underestimate the power of our collective voices.
As anti-Israel and anti-semitic rhetoric continue to populate campus discourse, the need to develop Jewish and pro-Israel leadership is needed more than ever. Many times when I speak with concerned relatives of Jewish students, the questions they ask are related to the students’ safety and overall well-being on campus. “What is anti-Semitism like on your campus?”, “Should my loved one be worried about expressing their Judaism?” “What’s being done on campus to ensure that Jewish students feel safe?” What they don’t understand is that despite any experience of anti-semitic bigotry they may face, it is the strength and resolve of these students which has ultimately led to the many successes on campuses all across the United States.
Today’s pro-Israel leaders are as determined, innovative, and diverse as can be. We willingly engage with hostile detractors in order to promote meaningful dialogue. We coordinate initiatives on campus that help to connect Israel with a new generation and bridge cultural divides. We are made up of individuals from different races, religions, ethnicities, nationalities, sexual orientations, etc. who all advocate with their own personal connection to Israel and not just overstated talking points.
However, the work we perform is by no means a simple task. Much of the issues facing Israel today have evolved into nuanced discussions on campus that aren’t always easy to articulate. Issues such as the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement, the legality of settlements, and the current Israeli administration have made advocating for Israel a stressful endeavor at times and one that forces students to think about where they stand on a number of controversial issues. As many Americans choose to demonize the State of Israel, we are the ones tasked with ensuring that the truth is told, and I am proud to say we are succeeding.
As a student San Diego State University, I am proud that Associated Students recently passed “A Resolution to Condemn Anti-Semitism”, which calls on student government to stand with the Jewish community, and adopt the 3 D’s (Demonization, Delegitimization, and Double Standard) of anti-Semitism as they relate to Israel. As the resolution made its way through the various legislative councils, the Jewish and pro-Israel communities were mobilized to advocate for its success and promote its importance to student leaders. The result was a testament to the bravery and determination that these communities have exhibited despite the challenges that have arisen in the past. For many years, the anti-Israel activity on campus has shined a negative spotlight on San Diego State University and deemed it an unsafe campus for Jewish students. By passing this resolution, our elected student officials took a powerful stance against bigotry and demonstrated a willingness to denounce threats and intimidation towards the Jewish community on campus.
The work that pro-Israel students perform every year should never go unnoticed. When BDS resolutions arise on campus, we mobilize to defeat them and expose the truth. When Israel Apartheid Week is used to spread lies and hate, we shine a light on Jewish self-determination and the return of an indigenous people to their homeland. No matter what situations arise, there will always be students who answer the call to action, and who will never tolerate any attempt to slander the Jewish state. This movement is one that is embraced by my generation and one you should be proud of.