US college delegation inspired by visit to Israel

Delegation say they were shocked by wave of anti-Israel hatred shown by their students after October 7


“It has been the most exhilarating four-and-a-half days I may have experienced ever,” said Ed Kaplan, who teaches mathematics at Yale University, in Tel Aviv’s “Hostage Square”.

Kaplan, 68, was leading a delegation of 25 Ivy League academics on a solidarity trip to Israel after experiencing frustration over reactions on campus to Hamas’s October 7 massacre of 1,200 people. “All Israelis were boycotted,” Kaplan told the JC. “Even people who had been invited to give talks were suddenly no longer coming.”

In one case, he said, a professor had travelled all the way from Australia to give a presentation that was cancelled on the spot.

“The campaign against Israel on campuses around the world is very organised. It’s incorrect to say that [after October 7] students decided to jump up and start protesting,” Kaplan said.

“They all wear the same clothes, they shout the same slogans and hold the same signs. Somebody pushed a button for a machine that had already been built.”

As part of the trip, the Yale delegation visited Israel’s hard-hit south, including Kfar Aza and Sderot, and toured the site of the Supernova music festival near Kibbutz Re’im, where 364 people were murdered by Hamas terrorists and 40 others were kidnapped and taken to Gaza.

The delegation also visited Ben-Gurion University, met a Supreme Court justice in Jerusalem, and toured Haifa’s Technion and the Druze village of Daliyat al-Karmel. In Tel Aviv, Kaplan visited members of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, to which he made a donation on behalf of his synagogue.

Kaplan believes that most American students involved in anti-Israel activities are ignorant of the facts and thus susceptible to endless streams of propaganda disseminated across social media in particular.

“The war includes another front: trying to demonise Israel on campuses. We must find out how it was organised and try to stop it,” said Kaplan. “None of this would have been possible if there weren’t existing levels of antisemitism.”

Harvard Medical School professor Gabriel Kreiman, 52, was heading another delegation of 35 academics, who also visited Kibbutz Kfar Aza, located on the border with Gaza.

“[A survivor] showed us the incredible devastation inside the kibbutz, highlighting the murders and kidnappings, the bullet holes,” said Kreiman. “Then, he pointed in the direction of Gaza and said he wished to be friends with these people, have peace and have their children play with his.”

Kreiman told the JC he was shocked when on 8 October several student-run organisations wrote a letter condemning Israel for Hamas’s terror attacks. “It prompted us to write a letter to the president of the university, Claudine Gay, and unite.

“We were concerned about the safety of our students,” said Kreiman.

Gay resigned in January amid allegations that she had plagiarised parts of her academic work and after she told a congressional committee that it depended on “context” whether calling for genocide against Jews violated university policy.

“I felt insulted,” explained Kreiman. “This was the time for authorities to step up, speak up, condemn what needed to be condemned and separate what’s right from wrong. Many faculty members were upset.”

When he returns to Harvard, Kreiman plans to establish open channels of communication to ensure the safety of every student on campus.

The trips were organised by Israel Destination, which has brought to Israel academics from UPenn, UCLA, Stanford and Dartmouth, and in the coming weeks MIT, Berkeley and Cornell.

“A lot of Jews feel that they have to hide their Jewishness on college campuses in America in 2024. These places are supposed to be liberal and bastions of freedom of speech,” Yair Jablinowitz of Israel Destination told the JC. “Being able to bring this delegation of academics who denounce antisemitism speaks volumes and we invite delegations from all over the world to reach out and join this journey.”

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive