In the aftermath of the heinous attack by Hamas terrorists on Israel on October 7, which tragically marked the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust, the surge in anti-Semitism on esteemed American university campuses has been truly perplexing. Observing this distressing trend, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog felt compelled to address the escalating anti-Semitism in a heartfelt letter to American universities’ presidents.
President Herzog, deeply disturbed by the incidents, recounted his experiences at Cornell University and New York University, institutions renowned for their academic excellence and robust debates. He expressed his shock at the distressing reports of Jewish students being harassed and assaulted at campuses like Harvard University. Incidents of blaming Israel for genocide, swastika stickers defacing dorm room doors, and intimidating demonstrations have tarnished the sanctity of these learning institutions.
In his letter, President Herzog made a crucial distinction between free speech and speech that incites violence. He urged universities to take a stand against anti-Semitism by establishing task forces to develop comprehensive plans of action for both campuses and the wider community. He questioned how anyone endorsing or glorifying Hamas’ heinous acts could find a place in any civilized educational setting.
Amidst this disturbing atmosphere, a tragic story emerged. Thomas Hand, an Irish-born father and survivor of a Hamas attack, grappled with heart-wrenching news. His eight-year-old daughter, Emily, initially thought to be a victim of the attack, might, in fact, be alive but held hostage by Hamas. Thomas described the agonizing limbo he found himself in, torn between hope for Emily’s safety and the unimaginable horrors she might be enduring.
In a state of profound worry, Thomas shared his hopes that Emily, if somehow watching or hearing his words, would know that she is deeply loved and awaited with open arms. The community, too, gathered in vigil, expressing solidarity and determination to bring back their kidnapped loved ones.
In the face of such despair, President Herzog’s plea reverberates louder than ever. The universities, once havens of knowledge and enlightenment, must reclaim their principles. The time has come to combat anti-Semitism, not just as a debate, but as a moral imperative, restoring the sanctity of education and humanity in the face of hate.