June 24, 2020
By Lauren Weiner
Liz, an 18-year-old from Cupertino, California, graduated in 2019 from a public high school in Danville, California. Recently she spoke with CAM about tough situations in which her Jewish identity and Zionist beliefs placed her.
One day during her freshman year, another freshman, someone she knew by sight but didn’t know personally, approached her. “I was wearing a Star of David around my neck, and he came up to me and asked me if I was Jewish. I said yes, and then he called me a ‘fascist pig’ and walked away. I didn’t even react. It was just kind of shocking.”
Liz didn’t tell school officials. She assumed that since no one overheard the boy, she wouldn’t be able to prove that he made this remark. And in any case, she said, “Back then I was naïve about all the anti-Semitism going on related to Israel. . . . I didn’t fully comprehend the importance of it.”
That year she joined in activities being sponsored by Club Z, a new Zionist youth group in her area. It spawned a change in her attitude. She started “realizing that that stuff isn’t okay, and it’s not normal, and I have a voice,” she said. “I just know if that ever happens to me again, I won’t just stand there like a silly little girl not knowing what to say.”
Social media is a harsh realm for teenagers at the best of times, but the subject of Israel can quickly heat things up. Someone Liz had known since middle school, a nice kid in personal terms, was known for taking an extreme position when it came to the State of Israel and the Palestinians. “And she knew that I was a Jew, and pro-Israel and everything.” During Liz’s senior year, when their mutual friends chimed in on social media in support of the extreme comments the girl was making, “it was really hard for me to see. I didn’t want to start anything with her. And so we blocked each other.”
In May 2019, Liz posted statements decrying the waves of missile attacks on Israel by Hamas and Islamic Jihad from the Gaza Strip. A second female classmate read them and took to Instagram, “telling me how horribly Israel treats the Palestinians.” The girl even claimed that “Israel kidnaps Palestinians and uses them as test subjects, and that’s why they’re so ahead in the medical field.” According to this new canard, Israel “is doing illegal testing on Palestinians, and since it’s human trials,” the Israelis make advances sooner than if the research were being done ethically.
“She actually surprised me with that one, I’ll give her that,” said Liz of her classmate. “It also made me sad, because that’s the level of brainwashing and propaganda that she’s been open to.”