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“You Learn Who Your Non-Jewish True Friends Are, Who Would Hide You In Their Basement”

Talia Khan, a Jewish doctoral student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and president of the MIT Israel Alliance club, has been active on social media since October 7th in a battle against the open antisemitism she and tens of thousands of Jewish students have experienced on college campuses across the US.

Speaking with Yisrael Hayom on a recent visit to Tel Aviv, Khan said that it’s only in Israel that she can truly relax.

“Finally, I can breathe. In the US, especially on campuses, we constantly feel like we don’t know who is coming around the corner with a keffiyeh, going to scream at us saying ‘****, Jew!”

“People are spitting at you if you’re wearing a Kippah. They are wearing Covid masks and keffiyehs, but they are very open about their Jew-hatred. Some are saying they are ‘anti-Zionists, not antisemites,’ but a lot of them at this point are just antisemites. It’s constant – everywhere around campus, wherever you go, you hear people saying ‘Israel is committing genocide,’ ‘You are a baby killer.'”

“This happens every day. For example, I was studying for my doctoral exams with two Arab girls. Immediately after Oct. 7, they started posting Palestinian flags, Israel hadn’t done anything at the time, it was hours after the news started. We didn’t even know what was going on. I talked to them about it, and told them all we know so far is that a bunch of Israelis were killed by terrorists, why are you posting Palestinian flags? The conversion got to a point where they said they believed this was Palestinian liberation, and they even said that the people at the Nova massacre deserved to die because they were partying on ‘stolen land.’ How am I supposed to keep studying with people who believe that it was okay for these innocent people in Nova to die? I told them ‘That could have been me. That could have been any MIT student, even a non-Jewish student visiting Israel for a summer program.’ People from about 40 different countries were in Nova. Now, both girls have blocked me, doxing me. It’s everywhere you go, in every aspect of your life.”

“There are students at MIT who had to be moved to safe housing, paid for by MIT because MIT acknowledged they were being threatened and harassed to such an extent that their physical safety was in danger. We had a non-Jewish student e-mail us saying someone in my dorm is one of the leaders of the anti-Israel club. It’s crazy. He said that every Zionist deserves to die, even women and children, anywhere in the world. This is a student on campus, who is still going to classes, I still see him every day, and the MIT administration does nothing. Every aspect of your life. You go in an Uber and there’s ‘Free Palestine.’ In the restaurants around campus, you see ‘Free Palestine,’ you have places saying ‘No Zionists allowed in this establishment.’ You have people boycotting – there was a big Ishay Ribo concert and there was a huge boycott, none of the people in the venue were working. We only feel safe when we’re in our own Jewish circles or Zionist circles, which also thankfully include non-Jews as well, we have great allies in the Christian community.”

Khan said that the antisemitic rioters would take over US college campuses if she and other Jews didn’t fight back every single day.

“Non-Jews support Israel but they are much less active because they don’t have to fight. We have to fight, every single day. We have no choice. We don’t want to be doing this every day, but we know that we can’t stop. We can’t let these people take over our campuses.”

“If we were to do nothing, we know our administration wouldn’t stop them and they would indoctrinate more people. And so, we have to be an opposing voice. We have to fight, we don’t have any choice. So many people I know had to drop classes, postpone exams, master’s defense, or doctoral defense, because we just have to work so hard constantly – write letters, file reports, get a bunch of hostage posters together, and put up a demonstration, we feel like our own little army. We have to defend our community and we feel we are huddled together I think, surrounded by people like this,” she gestures to the size of their small community compared to the anti-Israel one. “Back to your question ‘How do you feel in Israel?’ I finally feel like I walk around and instead of seeing graffiti that says ‘Free Palestine,’ you see graffiti that says ‘Free the hostages,’ and I’m just…” she sighs deeply, “I have cried even, so many times, being here because I’m so grateful. I don’t have to worry about who I’m going to run into in the street and what they’ll do to me. I don’t feel safe walking around the street in Cambridge, Massachusetts – I walk around with a knife and pepper spray everywhere I go. I know some people who got gun licenses to carry guns because they’re so scared. There is no aspect of our life that it isn’t touching.”

“So, I am very, very happy to be here, I don’t want to go home. A lot of people are saying, ‘so stay’, ‘make Aliya.’ I would love to, but I can’t. We can’t leave. If we leave, who is going to protect the other Jewish students? The other thing is there are a lot of fighters, but there are also people who are afraid. I don’t judge them at all. You know, I lost so many friends. I was president of MIT’s Chabad, and I’m very active in the Jewish community, people knew I was Jewish but ever since I’ve been loud about it I lost so many friends, so I know why people are afraid. Even in schools with a big Jewish population like Tulan for example – I think there are about 4000 Jews at Tulane – and Yasmeen, the girl in charge of the Israel club on campus said maybe 150 people are actively participating and actually come to events, whereas the rest are too scared. They don’t want to lose their friend groups. And if we leave – the people who are the 150 – and come to Israel, no one is going to be there to defend the other 3800.”

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)

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