Campus encampments and Jewish identity: What happens now?


Mijal and Noam delve into the complexities of the pro-Palestinian student encampments, student activism, the emotional and social dynamics within these movements, and the broader implications for Jewish identity and community.

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Noam: Hey everyone, welcome to Wondering Jews with Mijal and Noam.

Mijal: I’m Mijal.

Noam: And I’m Noam. What we love to do on the show is we love to wonder out loud.

Pro-Palestinian supporters set up a protest encampment on the campus of Columbia University on April 22, 2024 in New York City. All classes at Columbia University are being held virtually after school President Minouche Shafik announced a shift to online learning in response to recent campus unrest. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Mijal: Do we?

Noam: Yeah, we’re very curious. Are you curious?

Mijal: Sometimes.

Noam: You’re a curious person, Mijal.

Mijal: We’ll find out, let’s go.

Noam: Okay, so listen, we both love hearing from everyone. And you could reach out to us at Not Wandering Jews, Wondering Jews. Does anyone get that name wrong with you, still?

Mijal: I don’t know, I have an accent, so wondering, wondering, you know.

Noam: You do? What’s your accent?

Mijal: You know someone emailed me asking where’s my accent from?

Noam: What did they assume it was from?

Mijal: They were just asking.

Noam: They didn’t know?

Mijal: Yeah, my accent is ambiguous on purpose.

Noam: What’s my accent?

Mijal: You don’t have an accent.

Noam: Well, that’s… that feels… That is discriminatory. It’s discriminatory. You’re disgusting. Yeah. No, okay.

Mijal: What’s your… Okay, so yeah, email us, call us, 1-833-WON-Jews.

Noam: W-O-N-Jews, you said that very quickly.

Mijal: Call, leave a message, disagree, tell Noam he does not have an accent, agree with me, we should make a debate and have people call you. Whether or not I have an accent. No, in general. Every episode, who won?

Noam: Who, yeah, well, there’s no debate. 

Mijal: Wondering, it’s like who won? Who won? Yes, I’m a little bit competitive now. Is this a transition? Yeah. We got a question from the audience. Question from the audience, what book are you reading right now?

Noam: That is such a hard question. I’m somebody that still hasn’t figured out, still has not figured out the Kindle situation.

Mijal: Really?

Noam: I just, so I travel. Do you see my backpack there? The backpack is filled with books.

Mijal: You really should do Kindle. I know. So let’s see what the books are.

Noam: The beginning of politics. Okay. With Moshe Havertal and Stephen Holmes.

Noam: Okay, that’s the book you carry to show that you’re smart, okay?

Noam: No, it’s in my backpack. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict. By Dov Waxman.

Mijal: I have that in my Kindle. Okay. Okay.

Noam: I’m not reading it yet, but this was given to me that I have to read. It’s called Distinctions. A Sephardi-Mizrahi journal. Yeah. I’m interested to read that one. Great.

Mijal: Yeah, I’ve read it. Are you in the middle of any of them or you just carry them?

Noam: I just carry them. You know there’s a book called The Things They Carried? It’s a deep book about PTSD that’s experienced from war. This is what I carry with me. These are my books. That’s what I carry with me. And you know what? Mijal, these books carry me.

Mijal: That’s beautiful, very profound. Come back when you read them. Let us know. I guess for me, when I’m still finishing, I have like 100 pages left of the book I mentioned last time, Palestine 1936, really excellent. And I’m also, my bad habit is that I’m always in the middle of like five books at the same time. It’s terrible. But I started to read the book Jerusalem, the biography by Simon Sabag Montefiore.

Noam: The classic.

Mijal: The classic. Yeah, I owned it for so long. My brother gave it to me. I never read it. And it’s brilliant. And yeah, I’m up to the destruction of the second temple. Really interesting.

Noam: What happens at the end?

Mijal: We’ll find out. I’ll let you know. But Noam, let’s talk about more serious.

Noam: Well, that was serious. You want me to be more serious, though?

Mijal: Yes, correct. No, but actually, so we are, I think that right now, this is a huge topic of discussion for most Jews I know.

Noam: What is this?

Mijal: I’m gonna get to it, but like that, what we call now, like the encampments. Is that a word that anyone knew before the previous, like, months? What are some examples of words that people just started using that you’re like, I didn’t know that word outside of this context.

Mijal: Settler colonialism. I know. But one second.

Noam: Went there.

Mijal: But let’s talk about the encampments. Yeah, we can talk about that a different day. But let’s talk about encampment. So when did it start? Like three weeks? It was like eve of Passover, basically. That’s when it really started to get hot. That’s when it started to really emerge. It started at Columbia, and then it basically spread out. And you have, I don’t even know how many, like dozens and dozens of universities across the country, very often, not just elite coastal, also some public universities across the country in which many students who describe themselves as pro-Palestine and anti-Israel created these encampments with a list of demands from the universities, very often demands that had to do with divesting from anything that has to do with Israel, like, might be like companies they invest in, or it might even be like, close down your program in Tel Aviv, or it might be create a new program here, or it might be like condemn Israel. One university had shut down Hillel on campus.And it’s been all over the news, and not just like for Jews, but like, international coverage. Some of the encampments have been taken down. There have been episodes of violence. There have been episodes of outright antisemitism, there have been all kinds of things.

And yeah, I want us to talk about it. And what I want us to do, actually, Noam, is I want us, and I’m going to need your help with this, okay? I want us to both give our reactions to how we understand this. What does this represent? Where do we think this is going? And then I actually want us to be honest with ourselves and find out… our opinions are not fully baked and we’re still trying to understand. And we can actually help each other in that way. Because I do think it’s a topic that people have very, very, very strong reactions about. And I have very strong reactions, and you might have too. So I think we want to actually make space for both the strong reactions. And then they’re like, well, but what’s confusing here?

Noam: Let’s do it.

Mijal: Yeah. OK. So strong reaction. If you were to be asked in an interview, let’s say you’re speaking to a general audience, like not just Jews, but like everybody. And you’re being asked to comment on the encampments. Tell us, how do you feel about these encampments popping up all across the country?

Noam: Well, I don’t know if I would be answering this in this way as an interview, but I’ll just frame my reflections. That’s how I think about this. I’m going to reflect like a human being on what I see going on. Not reflecting as an organizational leader, not reflecting as an educator. But just as a human being, this is my reaction. Number one is the spirit of activism is alive and well. Lovely. Lovely. Good to see that there’s a spirit of activism that young people are not necessarily just languishing and not necessarily just having no spirit, no emotion, no excitement, that they have something that they in the United States that they’re fighting for. Okay. That’s my generous read of what’s going on.

My ‘lack of generous’ read, or my more realistic read, my reflection, is that the lack of literacy, multiplied by a worldview that captures the story of Israel into a catalog or category of oppressor versus oppressed. You multiply that with a lack of literacy, a lack of understanding, leads to this activation of this moment and this cause that leaves the Jewish people as a whole feeling incredibly, number one, not understood, number two, totally alone, and number three, feeling like they are being attacked.

But the worst part of it is that the people who are protesting are saying that they’re using their civic activism to fight for a cause that is so deeply just. And that’s the problem, because the cause that they’re fighting for is so ambiguous. What are they fighting for? Let’s go through options.

Number one, are they fighting for there to be peace in the Middle East? I’m in. I’ll join. I’m in. Let’s go. Let’s figure that out. Are they fighting for a two -state solution? Interesting. Lots of people. Let’s get behind that one.

Mijal: Okay. Okay.

Noam: What?

Mijal: No, I disagree with you that it’s ambiguous.

Noam: Well, one second. Before you disagree with me I think that a lot of people don’t know what they are fighting for. If they’re fighting, are they fighting for Hamas? Is that what they think that they’re fighting for? Well, if they’re fighting for Hamas and they actually understand what Hamas stands for, then I think that that is heinous and despicable and there should be reverse encampments against that encampment. And I think that they have no idea what they’re actually encamping for very often. Now those who do know what they are encamping, what the encampment is for, I want to understand what it is and I want to genuinely understand it. Is it because you think that the state of Israel is a sin? It’s going to be very hard for us to have a conversation, right? Is it you think that the Jewish state shouldn’t exist? It can be hard to have a conversation. Is it that you think that there’s an imbalance of power between Israelis and Palestinians and there should be a way to solve that together? Let’s have that conversation.

Mijal: Okay, I just find this last 30 seconds of what you said, Noam, a bit naive. You know what I mean?

Noam: Tell me.

Mijal: OK, so I would agree with you, that I think the majority of students who are going through these encampments, first of all, I think that majority of them would never think of themselves as antisemitic. Let’s just acknowledge that. But when it comes to the organizers, I mean, there has been clear reporting. So this is not me guessing. There has been Jonathan Chait, for example, New York Magazine. But there has been very clear reporting showing that Students for Justice in Palestine and Within Our Lifetime and some other of the organizing groups, and this have been incredibly carefully orchestrated and organized. There’s nothing like grassroot about it. No, they celebrated October 7th.

Noam: Right.

Mijal: So, I don’t think there’s ambiguity. Let’s name where there is ambiguity and where there isn’t. So, I do think there is ambiguity and confusion as to the majority of the students who are taking part of this. I think the biggest issue for young Americans right now, I think many of them are lonely and COVID destroyed a lot of social structures. And this is like, my gosh, you get to go out in the lawn.

Noam: That’s the activism. You get to go.

Mijal: It’s not even activism. It’s like you get to be part of a collectivist spirit. You get to be part of a community. Like, these encampments, Noam, they’re fun. Okay? Like, I’m like, I want to create one for me. Like, they have like a library and food and by the way, very often, and I know students have shared with me, people are not told, come here to advocate for X. They’re just told, hey, come out to the lawn. We have some like food and drinks and it’s like music and it’s so much fun. So I think many people are there because it’s like the cool thing to do. And I’m not saying that in a shallow way. I mean, you want to be part of a community. So that’s number one.

Then number two, I do think a lot of people have internalized these very simplistic narratives. Israel bad, America bad, and the rest of the world, good. White people who they think is Israel, which is not true by the way.

Noam: They put Israel into the category.

Mijal: Yeah, brown people who they put everybody’s against Israel, good. Like, it’s an incredibly shallow and simplistic narrative.

Noam: Is there any generous reading of some people in the encampments? 

Mijal: Of course. Of course. The generous reading is some of them are going because they want community. That’s, I think, a generous reading. I think others are going because they have… There’s been some reporting coming out of Yale, for example. There’s some small examples where there are people who do believe in, let’s say, like, Israel existing, and also they are advocating for a Palestinian state, and they believe that these incumbents contribute to putting pressure, I think they’re like a tiny minority of people who actually know what they’re talking about, and who believe that this can actually contribute towards that. So they do exist. But it makes me, but this is where the question, and I think we’ve spoken about this before, this is where I struggle with this, like what happens when you have social movements that are run and led by people that I think are literally pro -terror. And I don’t use the word lightly, but like they are pro-terror. Like if you’re part of SJP and you celebrated Hamas, like there’s no question for me about it. And many of them, by the way, loathe America as much as they loathe Israel. So if you are, so how do we think about movements in which, okay, majority of the people are pro, they’re not there, but they’re being led by those who are there.

And that’s where, by the way, that’s the questions that I’m struggling with. Like how do I, what is the best way to proceed? You know?

Noam: Yeah, for me, listen, you and I agree on a lot of this.

Mijal: Let’s name what we disagree. Where do we disagree?

Noam: I think I have a real interest in getting inside the head of the people who are drawn to this. Outside of just saying that they need to feel cool.

Mijal: That wasn’t a shot. I mean that very deeply. I think people are lonely.

Noam: No, but fair. And so you’re saying that they would join any cause?

Mijal: Not any, but there’s like a particularly powerful one.

Noam: Is there anything romantic about this cause?

Mijal: A hundred percent.

Noam: Which is what?

Mijal: Student activism, fighting for the underdog. You’re on the right side of history and you’re part of a group. And by the way, and this is the, to me, the other underbelly of all this. Part of what we don’t talk about enough is that there is also penalties if you don’t join.

Noam: There’s social penalties.

Mijal: My gosh, 100%. Can I just read to you something?

Noam: Please.

Mijal: So I got this email from an undergraduate at an elite college in New York. This is not somebody who’s been very involved. He’s Jewish, but his social circle is mostly not Jewish. And he says, I personally have lost so many close friends in the last two weeks due to the way they think either you’re with us or against us mentality and how so many people view issues with Gaza and Israel existing only in a binary. With some of these friends, I went from hanging out with them daily and even going on regular vacations and spring break with them to less than a month later, completely cutting communications because of these perceived different ideological stances.

Now he’s saying, the email is long, like he didn’t want this to happen. Like they forced this upon him because he wouldn’t join the encampments. And he even says that, you know, like COVID made it really hard to have friends. And now like when he finally made friends, this happened. And he says like, I’m really eager to move away from these culture wars. And he adds, and I was moved by this. It says, I one day hope to reconnect with some of my lost friends due to the passage of time and gain perspective.

So, the reason I’m reading this is like there’s actually a lot of… It’s both like there’s push and pull, right? There’s the pull of the, be part of a community, be part of like the right side of history, you know, go up against like evil imperialism in America and Israel. There’s also like the factors that is like, if you don’t join us, you might actually pay a price. If you’re the only one in like a group of friends that when you’re walking by and they’re like, hey, come over, you’re like, I don’t think so, you will pay a social price. And that is really hard to resist.

Noam: What I find so ironic about this is a number of years ago, a Jewish leader, president of a university, said that the number, there are three challenges that people say that Jewish people face when they go to college campuses. Three, this is a person who’s been a major executive leader. Challenge number one is that Jewish people will go to university and they will be, for the first time, exposed to Bible criticism and critiques about things about their own tradition that aren’t the way they thought they were. Challenge number two is that there would be anti-Israel activism and they wouldn’t know how to defend themselves. Challenge number three, he said, is the ultimate challenge. This is so ironic looking back now. He said the number one challenge, this is 10 years ago, of Jewish people on campus, is that they are actually fully accepted. And when you’re fully accepted, you’re not able to establish your own identity. And you can’t be your deeply Jewish self because you’re so welcomed, you’re so acknowledged.

That was 10 years ago. I think that what you’re talking about right now is we’re in a radically different era.

Mijal: Yeah, let’s put it sharply. Mainstream American Jews, they might have family in Israel. They might know people in Israel. They think Israel being around is a good thing in general. They don’t see it as like the majority of the world’s problems coming because of it. So I’m being very, very general. But the majority mainstream American Jews, if they wear that belief system on their sleeve, have lost their acceptance in many places. And by the way, so I had this moment this morning. I was walking in East Village and got out of the subway and this guy stops me. And between vaping, he’s like, hey, your backpack’s open. You should fix it. And he was kind. And I had this moment being like, that’s nice. And then, oh, what if he knew that I support Israel? Would he tell me my backpack is open?

And I know it’s silly, but it’s like that feeling of like this stress of like, that’s I think what pains me most about this. I think these encampments hurt the Palestinian cause personally. But I also think they hurt America and a lot of things. The pressure that we are facing is to go underground with our beliefs if we want to be accepted with those beliefs in certain spaces. And that to me is kind of like what’s at stake right now. It’s not going to affect Israel policy. It’s probably going to move Israel to the right because…

Noam: Extremism breeds extremism.

Mijal: Yeah, and also like Israeli Jews are watching this too and they’re like, the world hates us, hence we don’t care about the world.

Noam: So I want to tell you what I think is one of the most iconic or critical moments in Israeli history that relates to what you just said. In the mid 1970s, the world got together and they said that Zionism, the whole project of the creation of a Jewish state, they described as racism. They actually said that, the United Nations declared that Zionism is racism. And it was at that moment in the mid -70s that the settlement movement… 

Mijal: you think it’s tied together?

Noam: Yeah, I think it’s very tied together. And it’s because the state of Israel, it was in the Labor government, meaning the left wing of the right wing, left wing, right wing, and the Israeli government. The left wing government was the one that started sprouting all these settlements.

And they basically said, world, if you’re going to discredit our entire movement, then you know what we’re going to do? We’re going to say, world, we’re done with you. And the Jews are going to do what Zionism was all about, which is to say we are self-sufficient and we’re going to create our own reality. So when you just said what you just said about how these encampments are going to further embolden the Israeli right, I think you’re spot on. I think it’s exactly what’s going to happen.

Mijal: But can I tell you why also? When you started off saying, I’m so happy the spirit of activism is alive in America.Noam: I’m not happy how it’s being utilized.

Mijal: No, no, no. But I think there’s different types of activism. I think the civil rights movement, and it’s often used in a shallow way, but you can study deeply. That was a movement that tried to persuade people and that actually had a political plan to make things happen. This is much more resonant of certain types of hyperradical activism that is trying to dismantle an entire system. So these encampments are, if you listen to a lot of the videos that have come out, they are really anti-American.

Noam: Yeah.

Mijal: I’m generally a pragmatist and I generally believe that activism is to persuade people and there’s so much research that supports this, that this kind of radical activism ends up turning, like bringing in reactionary forces against it.

So if I thought this encampment was pitting up, let’s say, the pro-Palestinian cause versus the pro -Israel cause, I might even react a little bit differently, but I don’t even think that. I just think it’s like the organizers.

Noam: Right. You’re making the distinction between the organizers and the participants.

Mijal: Of course I am and I think we always should. In the same way that I make a distinction between political parties and those who vote for them. But I do think there’s a bunch of questions. One of them is that I think once people join, you might join at the beginning because it’s cool or because you feel like you’re part of a community or because you generally agree, but this encampments tend to radicalize people because you just go inside and everyone, if you watch some of these chants, they are very hypnotic and you end up almost like…

Noam: Good chants.

Mijal: Being part of the crowd.

Noam: They have good chants.

Mijal: No, but it’s not just good chance. There was a lot of research after, I’m not comparing this to the Holocaust. I’m not trying to make that comparison, but there was a body of research after the Holocaust. But researchers tried to understand how could horrific things be done by so many quote unquote ordinary people. And some of the research basically spoke about mob mentality and what happens when you… 

Noam: The Milgram experiment. Milgram, Milgram, Milgram.

Mijal: Do you know anybody at these encampments? I don’t know people who are in camping, no.

Noam: Do you know people who have proximity? Yeah, of course. Tell me about your experience.

Mijal: I don’t have too much. I know, professionally, some people who have been part of this. And then before, in the middle of Pesach, I also found out that somebody that I used to be friendly with is not a student but has been actively supporting the encampments in a very public way. But I do want to just say I think this is where it gets really fraught.

And maybe we’re like, I want to have empathy for a challenge that I don’t have. Okay. But it’s like, what happens if you love people very much. Okay. And they are participating in the encampments for any of the reasons or others that we mentioned. And I think increasingly, I know a bunch of people who are struggling with this.

Noam:  I do too. By the way, I should say it’s possible that some of my students are participating in this. I had a student, a few students have come out to me. It was almost like coming out and they said, I want you to know I’m no longer a Zionist.

Mijal: It’s funny they said, like it’s like a confessional.

Noam: Well, because I taught them about Zionism and they loved me, close to me, all these things. But we want you to know that I don’t identify as a Zionist anymore.

Noam: And what do you say?

Mijal: I first of all tell them I love them. Like I love you. And you know, seriously, I start with a hug and…Number two is I’m a curious person, so I want to know what they mean by that. Part of me wants to say, the part of me wants to say is, you’re in your early 20s. You’re like part of the whole thing. Like, great, go, fight your fight. Zionism’s bad, yeah, I get it. Like, the Jewish state is bad. Like, yeah, yeah. That’s part of me. Like, I’m saying, I get them. They’re good kids. And they’re not just kids, they’re young people who have big passionate ideas.

And on the other hand, I really think that they are rebelling against a Zionism that I have issues with as well.

Mijal: Say more.

Noam: Well, I think there’s been a Zionism that’s emerged that is a Zionism I don’t identify with, a Zionism that is hopefully, will be on the fringes, but has entered a mainstream, which is ethnonationalist, which really is chauvinistic in nature, that there’s Jewish supremacy.

Mijal: Can you give me an example? Those are big words. Give me one example.

Noam: I’m talking about the way Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, different leaders in the Israeli government, speak and their followers speak about the Jewish people. This is about the Jewish people. I’ve been at chance where I’ve heard people say, mavet la ‘aravim, death to Arabs. I’ve been there with that sort of attitude. I don’t think that that represents the vast majority of Zionism, the vast majority. But when you have people like that in power and you are a civic-minded person and you’re a liberal person and you go to a march and you’re so excited about, let’s say, Jerusalem Day, for example, there’s a whole march that goes through Jerusalem and you hear those chants, you’re like, that’s the result of Zionism? That’s so sad.

And what I do is I say, I remind them that Zionism that you don’t believe in, I don’t believe in either.

Mijal: Would you feel different if they came to you and they came as like very strongly anti-Zionist like, you know, like Israel should be dismantled? Maybe there was like a point to October 7th?

Noam: No, no one has said that to me. No, but none of my students have said anything like that. No, no, no, no. There is a student from my high school though, I was close with, who was one of the founders of JVP. And that’s very hard for me, a close friend.

Mijl: What do you mean it’s hard for you?

Noam: Well, I think it’s a movement that’s trying to dismantle the Jewish state. I don’t engage with her anymore.

Mijal: Okay, I’m gonna be mean and push you. No. Okay, you’re at a party or whatever. At a bar. I don’t know. Library. She walks in.

Noam: I’m at a library party.

Mijal: She walks in. What do you do?

Noam: I’ll tell you what I would do. First of all, I would reminisce about high school.


Noam: Yes, first thing I would do. You’re her, let’s call her Sarah, okay? Okay, so how you know I’m? What’s up? It’s been so long. Yeah, it’s been a while. Okay.

Noam: Remember that party that we had at Joe’s house?

Mijal: It was crazy.

Noam: It was nuts. Insane. Up all night, parents weren’t there, it was crazy, wild, right? Okay. Yeah, so, what have you been up to?

Mijal: I am one of the key leaders of JVP. And we are working so much and we have so many people with us right now. And yes, our high school was terrible. It was chauvinistic and really promoted the worst kind of Judaism ever.

Noam: Well, I think our high school was pretty freaking awesome. It was imperfect, though, for sure imperfect. And the way we learned about Israel, I think was, there’s exactly the way I would talk. My generous read is like, people didn’t really know how to teach about Israel 20 years ago. And so you and I got a really bad…

Mijal: You’re just fooling yourself and living under an illusion and just supporting a genocidal regime.

Noam: Okay, but Sarah, I can’t really have a conversation to accuse me. I don’t really react well to being accused of anything.

Mijal: Yeah, I don’t really care. Okay. Sorry. I’m like, I’m channeling-

Noam: I like it, I like it. But what I think what she would say to me is we learned about Israel in such a dishonest way. And I would say, yeah, we did learn about Israel in a dishonest way, right? Israel is much more complex than we were taught. And the school that we went to has done such a better job in the last 20 years of dealing with that issue. But to demonize and discredit that to the point that you want to dismantle the Jewish state, Sarah, come on. No, no, no. Come on, Sarah.

Mijal: I think you’re a very optimistic person.

Noam: I am an optimistic person.

Mijal: Who likes to think about the best in people. I think that’s naive.

Noam: Maybe, but do you think if I yelled at her, it would help change her mind at all?

Mijal: I don’t think you should yell at her.

Noam: What do you think I should do?

Mijal: I would not engage. So people who are helping terrorism, I don’t engage with, I will fight their ideas with everything I have and I will gatekeep. These people have crossed too many lines.

Noam: I agree, but my feeling, again, I can only talk about my feeling, I feel hurt by her.

Mijal: Yes, we all are hurt. Yes.

Noam: But I’m saying that’s why I don’t feel…

Mijal: And you think it’s going to help you to speak with her?

Noam: I think that… I don’t know. These are people who are promoting anti -normalization with Zionists Jews across America.

Mijal: Yeah, and I think it’s massively problematic. I’m gonna own something. I feel like this conversation is bringing up a lot of anger in me, which is not good. It’s mostly that I love so many people, like so many students that are just so lovely and wonderful and just wanted to study and take their finals and wear their Judaism on their sleeves. And I see them. And also I just think it’s so destructive to anything good that can come out of this. Yeah, no. Rage can be helpful, but rage can also kind of like lead us to misdiagnose or lead us to sometimes turn way too reactionary, which I’m always nervous about, even in myself. You know what I mean?

Noam: You know who said that rage is not helpful?

Mijal: You, Noam Weissman. Just kidding.

Noam: No, Maimonides says that. He said one of the only qualities he said you shouldn’t be in the middle about, one of the only ones is rage. You should use ka’as, anger, rage in a way if you’re gonna be harnessing it to teach a lesson, but not because you actually feel it, because when you feel it, all you have and all you can see is yourself. When you are consumed, when I am consumed with anger, I’m not thinking about God, I’m not thinking about others, I’m thinking about me.

Mijal: You’re thinking about God and others all the other time, just sorry.

Noam: Well, it doesn’t, no, no.

Mijal: I don’t know. But let’s say something. I do want to say I’m holding this anger with a lot of empathy for all the people who are right now struggling with multiple commitments and multiple loves. Like I’m thinking in my mind of people who might have a sibling, a relative, someone they care for in the encampments and they themselves don’t agree with it and they think it’s harmful. I am not in their position, but I have a lot of friends, people close to me who are in those positions. And I’ve heard their pain. And I have empathy for that. I have empathy also for people who feel like, you know, I don’t agree. Like there’s a lot of people who feel like that this is just contributing to the extremes. So what happens if you really don’t agree with SJP, but you don’t feel comfortable with the like, you know, like the pro -Israel community who’s like all in on Israel and you are like somewhere like, you know, I’m a progressive Zionist, but like I don’t want to do the rallies. Like there’s a lot of people who are like falling through the cracks and want to be in community and who hate Hamas, but they might, you know, be, they might not trust Bibi and think that the war is being fought in a way that isn’t proper. And I’m just, I just want to name that I think we need to, there’s so many experiences right now. It’s very uneven. And it’s just, yeah, it’s not good.

By the way, some students at some universities, like they were being told by well -meaning professors, loving professors, Israeli and Jewish students. Maybe you shouldn’t go to class.

Noam: Yeah, but it’s disgusting.

Mijal: No, they were actually the professors were trying to be… But I was like, I find this aspect outrageous. That’s what it makes me feel insane about this. But what was it going with us?

Noam: I don’t know, but I’ll tell you this. What you made me think about also just now is… And this is maybe part of the earlier statement I was saying about the civic engagement, the service, the wanting to activate themselves to do something that matters. You know, maybe this is like a Rabbi Kook, Rav Kook idea, in some ways of like using the negative and channeling it so positively. Maybe that energy can help create another counter energy from the Jewish world that I don’t think is strong enough right now. I think that the Jewish world.

And I say, yes, there are Jewish people that are part of this encampment, but, I don’t know the number, 90, 95 % of young Jewish people are not engaged in this sort of way, don’t see it this way, are not on the side of the encampments, are on the side of two state solution, are on the side of figuring out a way to navigate the future with Israelis and Palestinians, and not on the side of dismantling Israel, okay? I would love to see a whole group of young people not just be distracted by it, not just be bothered by it, but let it activate their identity so much more. We need a lot more energy from the Jewish world.

Mijal: The problem is that…

Noam: What’s the problem? Why is that not a good thing?

Mijal: No, no, no. I actually think that…

Noam: Let’s have it activate. Go!

Mijal: No, the problem is that the loudest, quote unquote, pro-Palestinian… I don’t even think they’re pro -Palestinian because I actually think many of them harm, whatever.

Noam: You and I are on the same page. They’re not helping the Palestinian people.

Mijal: You know who those people hate the most?

Noam: Who? Who’s those people?

Mijal: One second. The SJP leaders, the JVP leaders. They hate the moderates. What you just said, if you had people who were like, hey, I care for Israeli lives, I care for Palestinian lives. I dream of a day in which we have peace. I am against violence. But the point I’m trying to make is part of the reason this movement cannot… It’s hard for it to flourish right now, is that any time one of those people speaks up and they speak up and they want to have nuance and moderation, the crazies go after them with vengeance. And partially because they are moderate, you know, you don’t always want to be screaming at rallies. I understand. Because that tends to be a personality, disposition. But that to me is a tragedy. And the voices that I value the most are voices from like all sides of the political aisle. I don’t need them to agree with me. I’m like, I don’t need them to be pro-Israel. I just want you to acknowledge the humanity of Israelis, of Palestinians. I want you to just not demonize. There’s reports that came out this week of like Israeli tourists in Greece. There was like a mob that was going after them. I’m like, what are, or there was an Israeli tourist in Brazil that in an accident, people were celebrating it.

Noam: Disgusting.

Mijal: But for that I have no tolerance by the way.

Noam: Yeah, I have no tolerance for that.

Mijal: That’s my red line. I’m like, dehumanization of Israelis? No. Because they’re born in a country?

Noam: Yeah, disgusting.

Mijal: There’s no dialoguing with that.

Noam: Disgusting.

Mijal: Okay, we shouldn’t end in such a negative way. I’ll say something. I think when people go so extreme, it does breed… For every encampment and for every student who was experienced, I mean, every student I know, by the way, has experienced being called some bad antisemitic stuff.

Noam: It’s disgusting.

Mijal: I’m like, I am seeing in real life a resurgence of young American Jews who are standing up, who know who they are. And they are not extreme, by the way. Most of them would love for like a resolution to the conflict. And they have moderate views in many ways, but they are rising up. There was a letter that came out. Let me end with this. Can we end with this? There was a letter that came out from some Columbia students that was magnificent. Everybody should see. We’ll put it in the show notes. OK. But the letter is called In Our Name, a message from Jewish students at Columbia University. The message is we are a silent majority of Jewish students who are really diverse politically. We’re not activists. We just wanted to study. And we have just experienced months of seeing radical anti -Israel activism and even antisemitism. And we have seen people who stayed silent and who betrayed us by their silence and by their inaction.

And our Judaism is intertwined with a connection to Israel. There is no way to cut that up, even though we are diverse in how we think about the Israeli government and this and that. And we are here to stay, and we are not renouncing our Judaism or our Zionism. And we’re going to continue speaking up in our own name.

And I read that, and I was like, I actually wrote to them. I’ll just read this. I said, what can we do to support you heroes? Sorry, it’s just me. I was like, can we please throw you a big party? I said, what you guys did needs to be celebrated. Courage is contagious. And when risk is spread, it’s easier to hold strong. So we all need to be honoring you and celebrating you. Because I think that right now, there is so much of a danger that we’re going to go underground and kind of like take our form of Judaism and like be afraid and hide it. And the more that we can, I’m not saying gatekeep, I’m not saying shut down everybody else, the more that we can stand up proud and say, this is what we believe in, the better I’ll be. Amen. Amen. Amen.

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