The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News



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Op-ed: Why your Jewish friends are so afraid

Gabrielle Bailey

The Jewish people are a small tribe, everyone knows everyone. When the attacks started on Oct. 7, I did the only thing I could: I texted my loved ones in Israel to see if they were still alive, and I went to be with my Jewish community. We gathered at Northeastern’s Hillel. I hadn’t met everyone there before that night, but we all felt like family. We sat in a circle and shared the names of people we were praying for: a little brother hiding in a bomb shelter, an uncle and a cousin missing, best friends called to the front lines. While I later found out the loved ones I prayed for survived the attacks, I have friends whose families will never be the same.

After the Holocaust, all that was left of the Jewish family tree was a twig. In my grandmother’s house, there is an old photo of my great-grandfather standing proudly with dozens of his relatives. They all wore the typical garb of religious European Jewry: long black coats, beards and big black hats. Excluding my great-grandfather, every single person in that photo was slaughtered in the Holocaust. Approximately six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, accounting for 60% of the Jewish population. My family — my people —were brutally murdered because they didn’t have a safe place to go when antisemitism turned violent. 

With my family in my heart and this recent attack in my mind, I intend to show you what Israel means to the survival of the Jewish people. I will describe the existential grief and fear I have felt as the world’s only Jewish state has come under attack.

Throughout history, Jews have been the targets of violence and persecution, and when antisemitism reared its ugly head, Jews often found themselves with nowhere to go. Even during the Holocaust, few countries would accept Jewish refugees. The United States turned away a boat of 900 Jews seeking asylum from Germany. In response to global antisemitism, Zionism, a movement for a Jewish state, began to gain traction in the late 19th century — well before the Holocaust. Zionism advocates for the right of self-determination and nationhood of the Jewish people. Being a Zionist does not mean you support every choice of the Israeli government. Being a Zionist does not inhibit your grief for Palestinian civilians. Being a Zionist only means you support the existence of a Jewish state.

Even before its inception, Israel has been a safe haven for Jews fleeing persecution. Jews fleeing Russia, Germany and other European countries sought asylum in the land that would later become Israel. After the declaration of Israel as a Jewish state, Holocaust survivors and hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern Jews fleeing countries that promised to kill them flooded into Israel. In 1991, the government of Israel airlifted 14,300 Ethiopian Jews facing persecution to Israel over the span of 36 hours. Even today, thousands of Jews continue to move from France to Israel in response to high levels of violence targeting French Jews. 

Now, the hope of the Jewish people is under attack. The last time this many Jews were slaughtered in one day was during the Holocaust. I expected outrage as terrorists with genocidal intent on par with the Nazis killed my people. Yet online, I saw thousands of strangers and a handful of my own peers justifying Hamas’ actions, rebranding terrorists as freedom fighters. I was shocked. I knew antisemitism existed, but it had always seemed distant in both time and place. I didn’t expect it to come from my peers. I finally understood the warnings of my grandparents. 

I have seen people post the phrase “From the River to the Sea,” which calls for a Palestinian state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, a territory that includes the entire state of Israel. Where are 7 million Jews — nearly half of the world’s Jewish population — supposed to go? The same people who were expelled from dozens of countries throughout history. Not to mention the other 2.5 million non-Jewish people living in Israel. It is possible to advocate for a Palestinian state without calling for the complete destruction of Israel. A call for the destruction of Israel is a call for genocide.

Israel faces constant direct attacks on its civilians and threats to its existence. If it didn’t defend itself it would cease to exist. I am horrified by the images I’ve seen of the Palestinian people and their suffering since the war began. I also understand the obligation Israel has to defend its citizens from terror. Until Hamas is eradicated, there can be no peace. It is painful to see the way Hamas hides itself behind Palestinian civilians, using their bodies as human shields and their lives as propaganda tools. Hamas uproots water pipes to build rockets. Hamas steals money intended for humanitarian aid for the purposes of waging war. Hamas doesn’t want peace for Palestinians, it wants the destruction and death of all Jews

Since the initial attack, my family, community and I have felt intense grief and terror. I have felt my body turn cold as I watched the climbing death tolls of Israelis and Palestinians alike. I have tried to focus in class while my thoughts drifted to my baby cousin in Israel, who thank God is safe, unlike dozens of others. 

During this tragedy, I have found a deep reservoir of strength in my community. It was here on the Northeastern campus, as hundreds of people gathered to mourn and pray for our Israeli brethren, that I finally understood the unity and collective strength of the Jewish people. For 4,000 years the Jews have been a tiny people, scattered around the world and frequently threatened by extermination. Yet, we have outlived the monstrous regimes that tried to destroy us: the Roman Empire, the Spanish Inquisition and Nazi Germany. I am proud to be part of such a resilient people. I am proud to be a Jew. 

Gabrielle Bailey is a third-year bioengineering and biochemistry major. She can be reached at [email protected] 

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