Tag Archives: college

Druze Delegation at NYU

On November 2nd, 2015,  New York University’s Emet for Israel supported group, Realize Israel,  hosted a delegation of Druze leaders from Israel.

The Israeli Druze Alliance brought a group of IDF soldiers of Druze descent and other leaders in the community to NYU in order to speak with students about what it’s like to be a part of the minority population of Druze in Israel. They spoke about their experiences in the IDF, why they support Israel, and much more. It was a unique opportunity provided to the NYU students to learn about an incredible minority living in Israel and how they contribute to the thriving Jewish state. It was also fascinating for the students to learn about the concept of the Druze religion and its secrecy.
Based on student accounts following the event, it is clear that they grasped the significance of this specific demographic group in Israeli society. Attendees learned that Druze-Arabs have a strong sense of loyalty to the country in which they reside, and they saw how this translates on a practical level in their lives. Some students may have even been pleasantly surprised to hear of the many Druze soldiers who take on high-ranking positions in the IDF. The event proved to be an eyeopening experience for the students, and through it they were able to gain a better understanding of how nuanced and diverse both Israeli society and its army truly are.

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Being Jewish and pro-Israel in college: 2010 vs. 2015

 "Israeli Apartheid Week," an annual anti-Israel initiative, in May 2010 on the University of California, Los Angeles campus. Credit: AMCHA Initiative.

“Israeli Apartheid Week,” an annual anti-Israel initiative, in May 2010 on the University of California, Los Angeles campus. Credit: AMCHA Initiative.

This week, I was able to talk to many Jewish students from around the world (including a friend from my alma mater who is visiting Israel) about what it is like to be a Jewish student on their university campuses.

I graduated from college just about a year and a half ago, and although much has stayed the same, it’s getting more difficult for Jewish students.

 

 

When I entered college in 2010, my professors were accommodating when I needed to miss class for the high holidays. Yet there always seemed to be a bonding event on Yom Kippur, and I had to miss tennis practices if I wanted to be on the Hillel board and attend Shabbat services and dinner. These little things made me feel different from the other students, but by far the greatest source of difficulty as a Jewish student on campus was the way I related to Israel.

I remember receiving a terribly inaccurate email, passed through my school’s list serve, calling Israel an apartheid state that commits war crimes. I remember getting an eviction notice put on my door, “mocking the eviction notices sent to Palestinians by the IDF.” I remember someone coming up to me in the dining hall asking me how “you [Jews] could do all of those terrible things to the Palestinians.”  I remember being ostracized in a class and receiving a grade less than I deserved because the paper had pro-Israel content. I remember sitting in a meeting hosted by Students for Justice in Palestine, the group leader asking all the other students to disregard my opinion and that of my friend because we were from the pro-Israel group. I remember when I found swastikas drawn in the bathroom stalls on multiple occasions.

It was difficult being on a campus that was dogmatically critical of Israel, with an undercurrent of anti-Semitism. I have surmised that nearly all Jews around the world face the same problems that I faced in college. And on my campus, the Claremont Colleges, it is only getting worse.

I sat with my friend, who is visiting Israel during her winter break, as she lamented how our school has changed in the past couple of years for the worse.  She described as unbearable the extreme political correctness, and she has even lost friends over it. She says that some school meetings are now segregated in order to give people of color “safe spaces.” For Jewish students, hostilities are at an all-time high. People freely disparage Jewish people on social media and there have been many bias-related incidents against Jews on campus. When they are reported, they are not taken as seriously as incidents related to race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, etc.

Around the world, the situation seems to be unfortunately similar.

This week I visited the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) congress, a gathering of around 70 Jewish students from around the world, at Kibbutz Tzuba, just outside of Jerusalem.

I volunteered with the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), a media-monitoring organization that works with students around the world to promote pro-Israel events, lectures, and media. CAMERA was the organization that helped me combat anti-Israel sentiment on campus and develop my leadership skills as a pro-Israel activist.

As I handed out fliers, candy, pens, and bags to the students at the conference, I schmoozed with them about their respective countries and campuses. Each and every one of them, from Mexico, Australia, Chile, South Africa, Italy, Russia, France, Israel, the U.K., to Germany, and more, cited anti-Semitism, anti-Israel sentiment and ignorance on their campuses.

One student from the U.K. told of being pretend-shot by anti-Israel protestors holding fake AK-47s. A student from Australia described an anti-Israel rally where someone persistently shouted, “Go back to Europe, Jews!” In South Africa, the head of the BDS campaign sang: “Kill the Jew” at an anti-Israel rally. In Australia, protestors waved bank notes exclusively at Jewish students attending a school lecture.

It saddens me to hear and to report that anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment is thriving all around the world on university campuses. But the good news is that conferences like WUJS ensure that Jewish students come together to problem-solve and be a part of the solution.  Suggestions ranged from building personal relationships with other student groups, to providing alternatives when there are anti-Israel events, and applying for leadership roles in decision-making bodies.

Eliana Rudee

Eliana Rudee

 

Being Jewish in college may have gotten much worse in the last several years. But as long as Jewish students come out of these encounters stronger than ever before, that is reason enough to be hopeful, indeed something to celebrate.

Eliana Rudee is a fellow with the Salomon Center for American Jewish Thought and the author of the “Aliyah Annotated” column for JNS.org. She is a graduate of Scripps College, where she studied international relations and Jewish studies. Her bylines have been featured in USA Today, Forbes, and The Hill. Follow her aliyah column on JNS.orgFacebook, and Instagram.

This was originally published on JNS and was written by Eliana Rudee, the founder of Claremont Students for Israel.

Kasim Hafeez comes to San Francisco State University!

On April 16th, Kasim Hafeez made an impactful and impressionable appearance at SFSU, where he was hosted by the campus’s Israel group. Kasim told students the history of his own anti-Semitic past and how he became a pro-Israel advocate through education and self-questioning. As a Muslim, Kasim talks about the Muslim world’s negative bias towards Israel and Jews as he explains how kids and people are subjected to false propaganda demonizing the Jewish people.

He talked about his own experience being subjected to demonization of the Jews and how his father taught him that Hitler was a hero for killing Jews. Now a self-proclaimed Zionist, Hafeez shares his journey with students and people across the US and Canada to inspire them to challenge their cultural biases and seek out the truth.

Kasim Hafeez at SFSU

Kasim Hafeez at SFSU

This event was covered by the campus paper at SFSU.

Why We Have an Obligation to Fight Anti-Semitism on College Campuses

Contributed by CAMERA Fellow Kailee Jordan

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Recently, anti-Semitism has been on the rise. The prejudice against, discrimination of, or hostility towards Jews as a nationality, religious, or ethnic group, anti-Semitism is prevalent on bus advertisements, social media, newspapers, and any mode of communication that reaches a large audience in a community. What people underestimate or simply don’t understand is the fact that anti-Semitism doesn’t come in the form of a physical attack. The media is largely responsible for demonization and discrimination of Jews, giving rise to the idea that Jews are held to a higher standard than other ethnic groups.

Despite media bias, though, what is on the rise today is largely anti-Semitism on college campuses. While media outlets can reach massive populations, the increase of anti-Semitism on college campuses is particularly troubling because it incorporates the education of the next generation. Colleges are places where young minds are molded. They are where most people develop the political views and moral perspectives they carry with them for the rest of their lives. As the matter of anti-Semitism on campuses is being watered down or brushed away lightly, the fight against this narrative becomes even more vital.

Last semester, San Francisco State University published a popular article in the campus newspaper, the Golden Gate Express, called “AMCHA Too Aggressive About Anti-Semitism.” In the article, the author accuses certain organizations for “attacking” professors who publicly express opposition towards Israel with an anti-Semitic label. The author states that “a small number of groups including AMCHA, CAMERA and Stand With Us are behind the vast majority of attacks on students and professors who criticize Israel or sympathize with Palestinians. For saying anything that these groups interpret as anti-Israel—even if the person is Jewish—the group will label a person anti-Semitic.” However, criticising Israel’s government is not anti-Semitic. No democracy is opposed to criticism; in fact, it is necessary for their progression. However, there is a huge difference between being critical and being discriminatory. While I agree with the author when she says that global and political conflicts are an important issue to discuss, including the Arab-Israeli conflict, it is equally, if not more important that it is discussed in an objective and non-discriminatory environment.

The author writes, “AMCHA’s strategies include making lists of professors’ names and often contact information and emailing them to school administrators and journalists.” AMCHA had made a list of professors that contained university faculty that have openly expressed that they support a boycott of Israel (BDS), a campaign that calls for the boycott of Israeli goods and all cultural, intellectual, and technological contributions made or manufactured by Israel.  Although people who support BDS claim they act to advocate for the equal rights of Palestinians, BDS does not call for a boycott of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar, Iraq, Kuwait, and Libya where Palestinians are denied basic citizenship rights like voting, owning property, and running for office.

AMCHA’s list of professors is not an “attack” on pro-Palestinian views, but is instead highlighting the double standard aimed at the Jewish State. Furthermore, it is meant to expose the fact that the supporters of BDS aren’t really considering the damage that the movement can and has already caused to the Palestinians. Some may consider the notion of the BDS movement to be pro-Palestinian, but looking deeper into the movement, it becomes clear that it is not a pro-Palestinian movement, but instead an anti-Israel movement which also hurts the Palestinians whom the movement supposedly wants to help.

Professors that support a boycott of Israel for a “‘human rights cause” but don’t boycott surrounding countries that ensure unequal treatment of Palestinians are not sympathizing with Palestinians or oppressed people but are demonstrating a discriminatory, anti-Israel sentiment. More importantly, if these professors genuinely advocate for and support human rights, why aren’t they supporting or starting any boycotts against the many other countries with “human rights issues”? Why aren’t they boycotting Lebanon’s anti-Palestinian laws? Why push for boycotts in Israel, where Arabs openly participate in Israeli congress and have equal voting rights, and not a country that restricts them? What makes a world-wide condemnation so much more prioritized towards Israel than it does in these other countries where thousands of people, including Palestinians, are being stripped of their rights and are persecuted every day? To hold Israel to a higher standard as an obstacle for human rights is discriminatory, biased, and fits the exact definition of anti-Semitism.

The article continues:

Since no one wants to be accused of this particular form of bigotry, lots of college students and professors simply choose not to talk about the problems in Israel and Palestine. Meanwhile, anything from ISIS in Syria to the vote for Scottish Independence in Britain is fair game for criticism.”

While freedom of speech enables anything to be “fair game for criticism,” it is important to note that this right allows for bias and discrimination. Choosing to slander or misrepresent something opens the critic to criticism upon himself. In specifically choosing to publicly smear Israel, one cannot claim they are being “attacked” if they receive a negative response.

While the criticism of Israeli policies may not be anti-Semitic, the vandalization of Jewish properties certainly is. In January, two swastikas were drawn on the house of Jewish fraternity AEPi at the University of California at Davis, in an act the police have labelled a hate crime. The drawing of swastikas in protest of Israeli or Jewish speakers or events on college campuses has become all too common, with this type of graffiti being reported at SUNY Purchase, Northeastern University, and Yale University, all within the last year.

Anti-Semitism is dangerous, powerful, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Ideas that demonize only a certain group of people have been responsible for some of the world’s most destructive and horrific catastrophes like the Holocaust, Rwandan Genocide, Armenian Genocide, and more. Students need to be aware of these biases and take initiative to acknowledge when something is being presented unfairly, or skewed to benefit or disadvantage a certain country, nationality, or group of people.

Seeing the effect and violence this causes in our world, we are taught take a stand against this kind of behavior, not defend it. We as students have an obligation to take a stand and recognize bias and discrimination when we see it. Hate speech and propaganda, such as the BDS Movement, that are designed to turn you against one group of people in particular are not forms of advocacy for human initiative rights, but rather calls to bring down the Jewish nation.

 

Why is This State Different From All Other States

Contributed by Lindsay Hurwitz, our CAMERA Fellow at the University of Michigan. This piece was republished in the Algemeiner.

In honor of the recent Jewish holiday of Passover, I found myself reminiscing about the oppression of the Jewish people in Egypt thousands of years ago. I then considered a more modern representation of the oppression of a people based off of a belief, situation, or attribute that a person was born into. I considered the situation of the LGBTQ community in Israel and came up with the following question:

Why is this state different from all other states (in the Middle East)?

People take part at the annual Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv

People take part at the annual Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv

In all other states, being LGBTQ is comparable to a crime; but in this state, it is not only accepted, but also celebrated.

In 1988, same-sex sexual activity was legalized in Israel, making Israel the first country in Asia to recognize same-sex unions. Although no same-sex marriages are performed in Israel itself, it is currently the only country in Asia to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. In 1992, discriminating based off of a person’s sexual orientation was prohibited, followed by a 2008 law allowing same-sex couples to adopt children together. All Israeli citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation, serve in the Israeli Defense Forces, and openly LGBTQ soldiers can hold classified positions in the IDF. Openly LGBTQ community members also hold parliamentary positions and have become famous artists and entertainers within the state.

In fact, Tel Aviv, Israel has been deemed one of the top friendliest cities to the LGBTQ community worldwide. This week, Tel Aviv will host a huge Gay Pride Parade complete with music, speeches, and floats. Thousands of people from all over the world join together at this parade to celebrate the freedom to be openly LGBTQ in Israel. This is not to ignore the fact that there are communities within Israel that oppose the LGBTQ community. Nonetheless, other countries look to Israel with admiration, as its general acceptance of LGBTQ should serve as a model to its neighbors.

Meanwhile, in Syria, being LGBTQ is outright illegal. In fact, both “coming out” and the creation of LGBTQ rights movements can lead to imprisonment. Syria rules according to Islamist law, which just so happens to be an incredibly oppressive governing system. Regardless of consent, desire, and age, Syrian laws dictate that homosexuality is a crime.

In Egypt, however, being LGBTQ is technically not illegal. However, the most dominant religion in Egypt, Islam, rejects the possibility of being LGBTQ and deems same-sex relationships to be illegitimate. Therefore, LGBTQ people are often arrested and charged with pornography or prostitution and face several years in jail simply for expressing or celebrating their sexual orientation. Thus, due to a fear of being arrested, many people keep their sexual orientations hidden and present a façade of heterosexuality.

Actually, in Gaza, homosexuality is illegal. Hamas opposes being LGBTQ, and such Palestinians have been tortured and killed simply for embracing their homosexuality. Also, within the Palestinian territories, there are no laws protecting the LGBTQ community members from harassment based off of their sexual orientation. In the Palestinian authorities, same-sex relationships of any sort are not recognized as legitimate. In fact, due to a lack of protection, hundreds of gay Palestinians have fled to Israel for safety.

According to the article “Professor Addresses Stigma Faced by Gay Palestinians” posted on the Michigan Daily website, Professor Sa’ed Ashtan spoke about his experience coming out as a gay Palestinian. As the statements in this article show, Professor Ashtan references the torment that Palestinians face in the West Bank every day. However, this sentiment is not related to being LGBTQ in the Palestinian territories or in Israel. This insinuates that the Palestinian Authority’s persecution of Palestinian LGBTQ community members and the hardships that this community endures in Israel is the fault of the Israeli government. However, these Palestinians are not under Israeli rule and Israel is the most welcoming state in the Middle East to the LGBTQ community. What should instead be noted are the numerous benefits that living in Israel grants members of the LGBTQ community as opposed to living in its neighboring countries or in the Palestinian territories.

It is important to stand in solidarity with members of the Palestinian LGBTQ community, as no person should ever have to face persecution simply based off of his or her sexual orientation. In order to successfully support the LGBTQ community in its entirety, the oppressors of these communities should be scrutinized. States like Israel that, for the most part, welcome and celebrate the LGBTQ community should not be punished for their acceptance of LGBTQ.

Tulane University Students Supporting Israel: “The Forgotten Refugees” Screening

Contributed by CAMERA intern Lilia Gaufberg

On December 2nd, our EMET for Israel group, Tulane University Students Supporting Israel (TUSSI) together with our CAMERA Fellow Emma Colbran, hosted a screening of the documentary “The Forgotten Refugees,” a film about the Jewish refugees from countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. One of the movie’s directors also attended, and held a question and answer session following the screening.

graphic-refugees.pngThe main goal of this event was to spread knowledge about these forgotten refugees and to have a meaningful conversation about the expulsion of Jewish individuals from these countries. In order to publicize the event, flyers and Facebook invites were used.

The attendees enjoyed the film, and were provided with a perspective that they had not been exposed to before. The audience asked questions about how the film was made and about what impacts the film has had on the world. Especially interesting for students was the attendance of the actual director.

For future events, more posters will be hung around Tulane’s campus in addition to hanging up flyers and posting on Facebook to increase attendance.

Watch the full film below:

State of Failure at the University of Chicago

On May 14th, University of Chicago Friends of Israel (UCFI), a CAMERA-supported EMET for Israel group, hosted Dr. Jonathan Schanzer on campus. Dr. Schanzer is the vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

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Dr. Schanzer at the University of Chicago.

Dr. Schanzer delivered a lecture on Palestinian governance based on his book, State of Failure: Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Unmaking of the Palestinian State. He eloquently argued that the main obstacle to Palestinian statehood is not necessarily Israel’s intransigence, but the Palestinian Authority’s ineptitude. Dr. Schanzer drew examples from history and even the most recent events to support his argument. He claimed that there has yet to be a Mandela or Gandhi equivalent in Palestinian leadership. And until we see that, prospects for a viable Palestinian state remain bleak.

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Friends and supporters of University of Chicago Friends of Israel posing with Dr. Schanzer.

Dr. Schanzer’s lecture was packed to maximum capacity. For the first time in UCFI history, we had to borrow ten additional chairs from neighboring classrooms. Overall, the event was a great success, and UCFI greatly appreciates CAMERA’s generous support.

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Sergeant Benjamin Anthony Comes to UConn

Contributed CAMERA Fellow Ali Jabick

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CAMERA Fellow Ali Jabick

Last month, on April 1st, Sergeant Benjamin Anthony, founder of non-for-profit non-governmental organization Our Soldier Speaks, came to speak at the University of Connecticut.  He began his presentation by sharing a traumatic experience from his childhood. One day, while walking to his Jewish school, Sergeant Anthony and his siblings were approached by a gang of adult men. These men brutally assaulted his brother until near death. In shock, Sergeant Anthony sprung his body over his brother’s to offer protection and he was severely beaten as well. This story helped the audience understand his decision to later move to Israel and join the Israel Defense Forces.

Due to Operation Protective Edge this past summer, Israel and the IDF were frequently the center of attention in media outlets all over the world. Some of the headlines regarding the IDF were very controversial and often misleading.

The IDF was accused of numerous war crimes, such as murdering young civilians and even of committing genocide. Through his personal experiences, Sergeant Benjamin Anthony was able to provide insight on the truths of the IDF and its soldiers. One of the stories that I found most powerful was one that he shared about what the men in his unit would do after a battle. He explained that they would not cheer or celebrate, but instead they all took out anything they could find to write on and began to write their wills. As a twenty-year-old college student, it was hard to fathom that men and women younger than I am are faced with such difficult decisions and situations that they are already writing their wills.

Later on, Sergeant Anthony began talking about the land of Israel and why he feels so passionate about fighting for the Jewish state. He explained that many say the Jewish people deserve Israel because of the Holocaust, which he believes to be morally unjust. At first, I did not recognize anything wrong with that statement. However, after further explanation, I too agree that the Jewish people do not deserve the land of Israel because of the Holocaust. The Jewish people have had a connection and right to the land of Israel dating back to the Bible. During the Holocaust, one in three Jews were killed. Is that what it should take for people to deserve their own land?

Throughout history, Jews have been exiled, dispersed, and persecuted against. Now, with the land of Israel, Jews no longer have to run or escape. It is a place where Jewish people from all over the world are always welcomed. Sergeant Anthony explained that this is why it is so important to defend Israel. The thing that stuck with me the most during the presentation was when Sergeant Anthony said, “a time of no war in Israel should not be confused with a time of peace.”  Israel is constantly on the defensive. For instance, this past summer, Israel initiated Operation Protective Edge in response to the persistent rockets being fired upon civilian populations in Israel. From the beginning of the operation in July through August, over 4,382 rockets were fired at Israel by Hamas (a terrorist organization) and other terrorist groups in Gaza. This is just one of the many operations and wars Israel has fought in order to protect its existence.

The United States is one of Israel’s greatest allies; however, as Sergeant Anthony said, “that alliance is fading…on U.S. college campuses.” It is our job as college students to educate ourselves and not just accept what people tell us. When we hear something in the news or from a peer about Israel or the conflict in the Middle East, it is important to take a few minutes and research. We must distinguish between media over-exaggerations and biases, and reality. In an interview with CNN reporter Matt Friedman he stated that there was a “disproportionate focus” on Israel in the media. He further stated that the “treatment of this conflict is an obsession that skews the way we see the world.”

There are often misleading headlines and captions that tell a different story. Fact-checking articles and news sources helps ensure that you are getting accurate information and are not being misinformed. Men and women our age are risking their lives defending Israel’s borders every day. By staying informed and getting the facts straight, we, too, can play an integral part in defending Israel.

Read more about the Benjamin Anthony event at the University of Connecticut.

Great Success: Dumisani Washington Event at University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign

Contributed by CAMERA intern Emma Fruchtman

More than just being the Jewish State, Israel is a vibrant country that is a center for scientific advancement, history, culture, and diversity. As such, she holds great significance for Jews and non-Jews alike. Especially now, Israel relies on a widespread support network, in which both the Black community and Christian Zionists have been instrumental leaders.

In order to show students that issues regarding the State of Israel are “not only of Jewish concern, but are also humanitarian problems,” Elana Zelden, the CAMERA Fellow at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, brought Dumisani Washington to speak on campus at an event organized by her together with Illini Students Supporting Israel.

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Dumisani Washington at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign.

Dumisani is a pastor from Northern California, the Diversity Outreach Coordinator for Christians United for Israel (CUFI), a founder of the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel (IBSI), and an advocate for Israel. He hopes to strengthen solidarity between Israel and Black Americans and other communities of color. At this event, Dumisani inspired students with his personal narrative. “He described the importance of Christian Zionism and the connection between the Zionist and Civil Rights movements. Since Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, [many people can discover what Israel means to them without a seemingly direct link].”

11156152_933367643381728_6878693858454728054_nFollowing the CAMERA sponsored event, Elana heard outstanding feedback. Dumisani’s presentation was “very interactive and kept the entire audience engaged for the whole time,” according to a student who attended. Using Facebook and other methods of social media, the event attracted 50 students, which was more than expected. It was a great success! Pro-Israel students are hoping that this will help cement a relationship between different groups on campus and engage more students in the future.

Behind the Scenes of Declare Your Freedom

Contributed by CAMERA intern Aaron Hunt

Three years ago, two college freshmen, Maor Shapira, an Israeli Jew and former lone soldier in the IDF, and Chloé Simone Valdary, a Christian African-American who grew up in New Orleans, met at a pro-Israel lecture at Tulane University. They talked after the lecture and soon bonded over their shared Zionism and strong interest in Israel advocacy. Thus began their adventure in Israel advocacy, culminating this year in the hugely successful Declare Your Freedom 3.0, a Zionist concert and extravaganza held at Tulane University together with The University of New Orleans. CAMERA was a major sponsor of the event, organized by EMET for Israel groups at both campuses. Hundreds of students attended, many of whom were not Jewish.

IMG_20150412_143849270_HDRAs sophomores, Valdary, a student at The University of New Orleans, and Shapira, who attended Tulane, organized a pro-Israel rally at The University of New Orleans. Though the event, the inaugural Declare Your Freedom (DYF), met with limited success, Valdary and Shapira were undeterred. For the second iteration of DYF, the unlikely pair decided that in order to reach college students, they had to create an event that not only defended Israel but also promoted it—the state and the Zionist ideal—in a fun, emotionally engaging way. DYF thus became a unique celebration of Zionism and the Jewish State, featuring music, poetry, and more.

By visibly displaying pride in Zionism and the State of Israel, Valdary and Shapira hope to show college students Israel in a positive light. Shapira says that DYF engages in the “promotion of Zionism… [rather than] the promotion of a ‘pro-Israel’ sentiment.” He explains, “The concept of being ‘pro-Israel’ allows people to be passive supporters and at the same time also legitimizes an ‘anti-Israel’ sentiment. Through DYF we ‘legitimize the de-legitimized’ by displaying public pride in Zionism, and inviting others to share and celebrate that cause with us.” Shapira hopes that the effect of DYF will be that “the slander of Zionism, and, in essence, Israel, will not be accepted as easily by people who would be otherwise be uneducated on the topic.”

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Rather than lecturing their fellow students on Israel and making detailed evidence-based arguments as to why Israel deserves to be celebrated rather than denigrated, Valdary and Shapira seek to tell an emotional, compelling story of Israel. Says Valdary, “Instead of the typical advocating that often takes the form of lecturing and pamphlet-giving, we believe that Israel is fundamentally a story which must be told to all ages and which should be celebrated.”

In recent years, pro-Israel groups have been losing in the fight against SJP and other extreme anti-Israel (and often anti-Semitic) groups on college campuses across America. However misguided and biased they are, anti-Israel ideologues have managed to spread their message with “Israel Apartheid Week” and other events that demonize Israel. Groups opposed to Israel’s existence have convinced a large portion of the student body in many colleges of the morality of their cause by telling a simple and compelling (but wholly inaccurate) story of Israeli oppression, brutality, and aggression.

DYF, says Shapira, “does something that the Jewish pro-Israel community has failed to do for the past couple of decades—set a narrative.” DYF advocates for Israel by simply ignoring Israel’s opponents and instead legitimizing the Jewish State by humanizing Israelis—a seemingly straightforward task that has proven shockingly difficult. He adds, “We are not reactionary, we are not apologetic, and we are not defending ourselves. We set the tone. And by doing so, [we] inspire others to do the same.”

Hopefully, DYF will continue to spread to more American college campuses in the coming years and extend the reach of its powerful message of love of Israel. Though Valdary and Shapira are now both seniors at their respective colleges, they hope to continue their work on Declare Your Freedom and set it up for success for years to come. In this time of crisis for Israel advocates on campuses across the country, an era of BDS and SJP, of Israel Apartheid Week and harassment of Jewish students, reasoned arguments and impassioned pleas are no longer enough to make college safe for Zionism. DYF stands out as a potentially transformative movement that could change the way Israel advocacy is conducted at colleges—and as a result, improve Israel’s reputation among college students.

What started as the brainchild of an unlikely pairing of Zionists is fast becoming the new face of college Israel advocacy.