Sitting in Hebrew school class on a Wednesday night, I was 14 years old when I was shown a video of a violent rally on the campus of UC Berkeley. I have a vivid memory of watching the video of college kids yell anti-Semitic slurs at a group of Jewish students. The aggressive rally was for Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS). This is a group defined by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as “an international, anti-Israel movement mainly on American college campuses which campaigns to increase economic and political pressure on Israel until it recognizes Palestinian rights.”
I started to wonder if I would have an encounter like this during my experience at college. As I watched, I decided I would protect myself from this ever happening to me, and I told myself there was no way I would ever step foot on the campus of UC Berkeley.
That mindset as a 14-year-old didn’t do me any good. I thought I was supposed to be afraid of anti-Semitism and fear having to defend Israel.
In reality, the campus of UC Berkeley is not the only campus where anti-Semitism exists. The ADL reported that there was a 60 percent increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents from 2016 to 2017 alone.
Am I supposed to stare at that number and not be completely consumed by fear?
This March, I went to my first American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, D.C., where I got the chance to learn about Israel and lobby my representatives. I had the opportunity to speak with Nebraska Congressman Don Bacon about passing legislation specifically regarding BDS. I felt so empowered in that moment when I was able to voice my opinions in a room full of important people.
By preparing to be an activist and beginning to become a pro-Israel advocate in high school, I hope that I’ll be ready to continue with advocacy in college. While we often hear that issues like the occupation of Israel are accentuated on campus, by learning about what that might look like, I can be ready to deal with it on campus.
I know that wherever I go to college, I’m going to choose to be a student activist, and I’m going to choose to be a pro-Israel advocate. With a trend of anti-Israel rhetoric existing on campus, I know I’m going to have to wrestle with the idea of how I can successfully fight for a cause so close to my heart.