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Being pro-Israel is taboo among my fellow students on Instagram

Teenagers today, like many adults, seem to have become obsessed with Israel and Israeli politics.

Last May, when a ceasefire was called after 11 days of fighting in Israel, my fellow students at Columbia Secondary School in Manhattan, who had never posted anything about Israel on Instagram, were suddenly spokespeople for the “anti-Israel movement.”

As a pro-Israel Jewish teenager, my views on Israel are very different from those of my friends. Identifying with Israel is a huge part of my identity. I listen to Israeli music, cook Israeli foods, keep up with Israeli politics and have Israeli friends. When I attended an elementary Jewish day school, the highlight of the year was going to the annual Israel day parade.

Having a large portion of my family living in Israel also makes it more personal. I worry when my cousins, aunts, and grandparents have to escape to their bomb shelters. During the conflict in May, my cousin’s shul in Lod caught fire due to the violent unrest there.

Since then, most people I follow on Instagram have continued to post and repost images, infographics, and videos with captions that seem innocent if you’re not informed, but are really antisemitic, like this one: “Dear Jews, it’s time for you to stop crying and blaming the Holocaust for all of your problems.” This was a popular post, and almost everyone in my grade posted it as a way of attacking Israel. I’m one of the few Jewish kids in my grade, so it was surprising to see even Jewish kids from the middle school posting anti-Israel infographics. Those hit the hardest. Jewish teenagers posting antisemitic images.

pro-israel taboo

איינע פֿון די אַנטי־ישׂראלדיקע מעלדונגען וואָס דער מחברטעס מיט־תּלמידים האָבן פֿאַרשפּרייט אויף אינסטאַגראַם Image by Instagram

I always want to post something positive about Israel. But I feel like I can’t do that as easily as other kids can post their anti-Israel opinions. My grandmother actually told me not to. “Don’t call attention to your views,” she said. “You’ll be called the bigoted one. You’re the one who could be reported and in trouble for posting your beliefs. Focus on your SAT this Sunday.”

It seemed so unfair. Why should I be the one called bigoted for posting a pro-Israel sentiment? Why would I be the one getting into trouble? Basically, I’d get reported simply for posting a belief that few others share.

Recently, a Jewish kid in my grade posted pictures of his trip to Israel. He was roasted in the comments, and his post was widely shared among the people in my school. I wanted to say: “Hey, this conflict goes back thousands of years, and is so much deeper than what’s happening right now.” But I didn’t.

I still don’t have the guts to speak up about Israel. Maybe it’s because I’m a minority among teenagers today. I was always told to stick up for what I stand for, but in this case, it doesn’t feel like I can. I hope that someday I’ll feel more confident about sharing my beliefs on social media, since all Jewish teens need to feel they have a voice.

So if any other Jewish teenagers are reading this right now, please don’t be like me. Scream your beliefs, even if they aren’t popular.

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