The University of Texas at Austin was my home for some of the best years of my life. It was at the Forty Acres that I made life-long friends as well as discovered my true passion – Israel. Before I graduated in 2007, I was active in the UT Hillel, Texans for Israel (TFI) and AIPAC.
After graduation, I packed up my bags and left for Israel, as I had been accepted to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Jewish Civilization program. I frequently ate at the Frank Sinatra Cafeteria where only 5 years earlier “a bomb packed with shrapnel” was placed in the cafeteria. In this single attack, 9 people were killed and 85 injured. Five of those killed were Americans. One of those killed was Marla Bennett, a 24-year-old from San Diego, CA. 

At Hebrew U, not far from the Frank Sinatra Cafeteria
Another victim murdered by the Hamas terrorist who placed the bomb was Benjamin Blutstein, 25-years-old from Harrisburg, PA. Benjamin’s mother, Dr. Katherine Baker, said in 2012, “In the United States there’s this tone that says ‘all of this is just working our way toward a peace, toward an ultimate settlement.’ I don’t see that alternate settlement coming, and I see tremendous cynicism, particularly on the part of the American government in not acknowledging its responsibility toward Israel nor to American citizens.” 

Why am I writing this Op-Ed? The answer is quite simple. I recently read Jenna Conwisar’s piece “Joining pro-Israeli organization provides knowledge, community. Jenna is a UT freshman and hails from California, as did Marla Bennett. After reading the first Comment on Jenna’s opinion piece, I was literally in shock: “You can argue a lot of good things about Israel, but saying that they have good democracy is not one of them.” 

I don’t know the person who wrote the above comment, but this person has most likely never been to Israel where our Parliament has Jews, Christians, Arabs, Muslims, and Druze. One MK (Member of Knesset) that stands out as a shining example of the vibrant democracy that is Israel is Haneen Zoabi. Zoabi was elected to our Parliament in 2009. On June 12, 2014, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by Palestinian terrorists. Haneen Zoabi said that the two terrorists who kidnapped and murdered Naftali (American-Israeli), Gilad and Eyal were in fact not terrorists. 

Although my time at UT Austin was wonderful, I did experience anti-Semitism. At our annual Israel Block Party, I remember pro-Palestinian students holding up signs such as “How is Gaza not Warsaw?” I remember being afraid at times to wear my “Star of David” necklace. 

Since I graduated in 2007, the Jew hatred on campuses throughout the United States has only increased. There is a website now unfortunately dedicated to this horrible fact: 

Jewish students on college campuses in the US are afraid – afraid to be Jewish, to support Israel, to wear Star of David necklaces and “kippot” (head coverings). 

Interestingly enough, not only Jews on campuses are afraid of supporting Israel. Christians and Muslims, who also find the actions of terrorist entities like Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS and of course the terrorist state of Iran deplorable, are afraid.
College campuses should be a place of learning and of debate, but not of fear.
Graduation 2007: By the “Turtle Pond” – My favorite place on campus at UT Austin