Op-ed: We will not be silenced


As a senior at Northeastern University, I’ve been exposed to a diverse student body. There are different cultural and religious organizations across campus that celebrate their traditions, beliefs and customs. Students may join these groups because they want a place to meet other people with similar backgrounds and continue traditions they grew up with. Others simply want to learn more about a specific culture or area of the world. Regardless of why one joins, it is a great area to truly experience, interact and celebrate different cultures.

I am Jewish and have a strong connection with the land of Israel. I started to get involved with the Jewish groups on campus after my first trip to Israel on Birthright with the university. After having such a powerful experience there, I immediately wanted to learn more and share with others the strength, beauty and resilience of the country. Israel has a special way of making you feel at home, not only for the Jewish people but for anyone who gives it a chance. The people may seem stubborn and loud, but they are also some of the most kindhearted people I have met, willing to bring anyone into their home. Israel brings out the best in myself and  fills me  with inspiration wherever I go. My goal is to help bring different areas of Israeli culture onto campus for students to experience.

One major aspect of life in Israel is military service. Men and women are required to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces, or IDF, after high school. It is interesting to hear their stories, since in many ways they are normal teenagers like us but lead a totally different life. As a lot of people in the United States are preparing for college, Israelis are preparing for basic training.

As a member of Northeastern Hillel’s student board, we decided to host an event where two Israelis would come to campus and speak about their experiences living in Israel and serving in the military. The “Between The Lines: Israeli Soldiers Tour” is sponsored by StandWithUs, an Israel education organization. Karen is a Jewish woman who moved from New Jersey to become an Israeli citizen. She became a commander in the army and has a passion for Israel. Tom is a Bedouin Muslim from Northern Israel and served in the Israeli Air Force. Many students gathered here to hear about their unique experiences and ask questions.

Unfortunately, the start of our event did not go as planned. As students arrived to Hillel for the event, other students who were part of the Students for Justice in Palestine, or SJP,  group at Northeastern were protesting the event outside of the building . These individuals do not believe that Israel should exist and defend itself. While they have every right to have an opinion and make their voice heard, they did this in a very disrespectful way. They protested outside a Jewish house of worship, which was insensitive and made many Jewish students feel uncomfortable and unsafe.

When trying to take a step back and understand their thought behind it, it still does not make sense.  SJP wants equal rights for Palestinians but are not in favor of a two-state solution. SJP does not support the existence of Israel, and wants Israel completely wiped off the map. If they truly cared about progressive values and Palestinians, then they would also be protesting the oppressive Hamas and Palestinian Authority dictatorships — the two governments that control the areas where most Palestinians live. They oppress Palestinians, are anti-democratic, anti-LGBTQA+ and anti-women. This is in contrast with Israel, which is the most progressive country in the Middle East . By drumming outside Hillel and intimidating students, SJP tried to drown out the event with noise and silence our voice on campus — they tried to deny us our First Amendment right to express ourselves. But we will not be silenced.

There are millions of Jews in this world that find comfort in their homeland of Israel. The IDF soldiers take years out of their life to help defend and protect that homeland. IDF soldiers not only protect Israelis, but Jews around the world. They protect this land so that Jews can always come back and feel at home just like I felt the first time I went.

During our event one of the soldiers encouraged us to have dialogue with people who have different views. She told us to bring the facts that we have so that more lies and misconceptions are not spread. I hope that this story is a starting point for dialogue surrounding this topic. I will not be silenced, and I know that I have an army of people behind me who will not be either. IDF soldiers are responsible for defending the country, but we can also play a part of that right here in Boston.

Lindsay Brown is a fifth year human services and public health major and the StandWithUs Emerson Fellow.