Jenni Greenfield's dialogue below will help you step into the shoes of a Jewish University Student. These are the honest thoughts and feelings of only one member in our large movement, though I'm sure that many of us will find parts of it that would appear in our own stories about being a Jew in the UK.
I was sitting in a lecture when I found out about all the rockets that were being fired over Israel last week. Whilst others were scribbling down what the lecturer was saying, I was frantically messaging my friends (who are on gap years in Israel) to check everything was okay. The people around, me had no idea. I looked to BBC news in hope of finding more information, assuming it would be a headline. Nothing. Only through some searching did I manage to find anything, which is why no one knows, and why I felt so alone in dealing with it. For non-Jews, I feel it’s hard to see Israel as something more than merely a war zone, or a source of political tension. For me it’s so much more: it’s where my family is, it’s where I go on holiday, it’s where I can fully embrace my Judaism.
Israel has been even more important to me this week. A talk held by my university’s JISoc (Jewish Israeli Society) was interrupted by a protest from the Friends of Palestine society. The talk was regarding the IDF's work as part of ‘Operation Good Neighbour’, something not directly concerning the Israel-Palestine conflict. Whilst I was not able to be at the talk, I did encounter their aggressive chants whilst I was walking between lectures. Having never been in a situation like this before, I always thought I would be the one to try and start a conversation that may diffuse the situation. However, with the chants of ‘Free Palestine’ ringing in the air, all I could do was fall into the crowd and continue my journey.
I later found out that the protest was led by the SU’s ethnic minority officer. This is when I really felt scared. Not only could we not listen to the amazing story of an IDF colonel, but the person who’s elected to support us was actively standing against us. It strikes me as absurd that the person who is meant to be in charge of ethnic minorities cannot represent and protect a group included under that banner. Whilst it’s not obvious that I am Jewish when walking around campus, this event has made me reluctant to share this information with others. I have always been proud of who I am and felt like I would always be accepted but now, in the place I’m meant to call home for the next 3 years, I feel marginalised and unsafe.
I feel as though this event was all the more striking because I just returned from Bogrim Seminar in Barcelona, where we learnt about how the Jews were expelled from Spain. Taking into account the event on campus and the current political climate, it’s hard to feel as if we have made the progress our ancestors probably would have hoped for. The fear evoked in me by the events of the past weeks further confirms my strong Zionist belief of having a Jewish homeland in Israel. If only it were that simple. Whilst I feel supported by my flat mates and those around who I have shared my feelings with, it’s hard for someone who hasn’t been directly threatened by these actions to understand what I’m currently feeling.