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'Take Action for Israel' delegation of student leaders arrive for visit amid rising antisemitism on North American campuses

American student leaders meet with Knesset Member Danny Danon (Photo courtesy)

Refusing to stay silent in the face of hatred and intimidation, a group of student leaders from various prominent institutions arrived in Israel on Monday to take a stand. 

This will be the third such delegation gathered for the initiative, "Take Action for Israel," being organized by Hasbara Fellowships and Israel ambassadors.

Two dozen students representing universities like UCLA, Rutgers, Michigan, Columbia, Ohio State, McGill University, Syracuse, and others, have come to gain a deeper understanding of the situation on the ground. The visits were aimed at helping the students develop creative and effective strategies to combat the ignorance and antisemitism that has become so ubiquitous on North American campuses. 

During a previous trip, students met prominent Israeli figures, including President Isaac Herzog and Knesset Member Danny Danon. They also toured the southern Negev region – the target of the Hamas invasion and terror attack on Oct. 7 – to meet with Israelis impacted by terror attacks. The personal visits with survivors and witnessing key locations from the attack strengthened their ability to advocate for Israel.

“It’s a whole different meaning...I’m seeing it live,” shared one student describing their visit with bereaved Israeli families.

The third “Take Action For Israel” delegation was welcomed by Knesset Member and former UN Ambassador Danny Danon, who expressed warm appreciation for their engagement and action in support of Israel

Danon told them: "You have shown tremendous dedication to advocating for Israel's cause. Your advocacy efforts are of great significance, and I commend you for your important work both here in Israel and upon your return to the U.S."

Saul Hakim from Binghamton University, New York, explained what it’s been like for Jewish students on campuses inflamed with pro-Palestinian rage.

“On our campus, we have experienced various forms of antisemitism, including an encampment, a BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] resolution, several protests with antisemitic language inciting violence, swastikas drawn on campus, along with other hate speech and actions.”

Similarly, Emmy Rubin noted the hostility she has witnessed at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

“I've experienced hundreds of people walking through the main parts of campus chanting intifada revolution, witnessed masked individuals screaming in megaphones about Israel's systematic rape, torture, and murder of Palestinian women, and I've had my poetry class pause regular curriculum to study poetry that martyrizes Palestinian prisoners and vilifies Israelis," said Rubin, who continues to advocate for Israel.

"The worst of all the hate on campus is the silencing of our voices. That is why I created a pro-Israel student newspaper on all Montreal post secondary campuses that will allow Jews and all lovers of Israel to be heard and to feel like they matter.”

Multiple incidents of significant antisemitism have been compounded by university administrators failing to unambiguously condemn these outbreaks on campus. The inability or unwillingness of universities to set clear boundaries on anti-Jewish hatred has raised alarm bells for many, prompting students to take action themselves.

Columbia University in New York has been a particular hotbed of anti-Israel hatred that rapidly expressed itself in hatred for Jewish students. Columbia Prof. Shai Davidai attempted to convey the severity of the situation before the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee: 

“Jewish students have locked themselves in dorms to avoid being assaulted. They have been spat on, attacked, bullied, vilified, chased, and told to keep effing running. This is not an exaggeration. This is the reality of what it's like being Jewish and Israeli at Columbia since October 7th…" he wrote on 𝕏.

“This is not about politics, this is about hate. Hate for Israel, hate for the Jewish people's right for self-determination, and hate for America and all that it stands for. The US Congress and many others have been asleep at the wheel for too long. It is time to take action, it is time to wake up.” 

Not waiting for the politicians, Hakim described the action he has already taken in response at Binghamton University.

“I organized memorial services and vigils, educational seminars, and fundraisers that raised tens of thousands of dollars. I also set up awareness installations, spearheaded the Say NO! to the BDS coalition, and reaffirmed the IHRA definition of antisemitism in our student government. We cannot stand back and ignore the threats of antisemitism. We must continue to be proactive and act,” Hakim explained

Hakim, Rubin, and the other students have already shown great initiative and resilience in taking a stand for Israel.

During this trip, the cohort will bolster their understanding of what is happening in the region, and explore how they can most effectively take a stand for Israel in an environment where ignorance about the issues has fanned the flames of hatred. Their solidarity with Israel and willingness to speak up about the reality on the ground will be a great benefit to students and supporters of Israel everywhere.

Jo Elizabeth has a great interest in politics and cultural developments, studying Social Policy for her first degree and gaining a Masters in Jewish Philosophy from Haifa University, but she loves to write about the Bible and its primary subject, the God of Israel. As a writer, Jo spends her time between the UK and Jerusalem, Israel.

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