Discovering my Zionism since October 7th

May 29, 2024
Camelia Schwartz

Alameda, California, United States

Class of 2026

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It has been 235 days since the massacre of October 7th, 2023, and I feel as if nothing has gotten better. People are still being brutally murdered, hostages are still being held, and Jews all around the world are constantly living in fear. I am a Jewish teen who is 16 years old living in the San Francisco Bay Area, attending a public high school. I am also a Zionist, meaning I strongly believe in Israel's right to exist. It is pretty “controversial” to “admit” publicly to being a Zionist in the Bay Area, but that’s who I am. Since October 7th, because of the divisive responses, I have lost my best friend of 10 years, the respect of many peers, and my faith in humanity. I have also lost numerous followers on social media due to my beliefs, and I have also been harassed by some people online who respond to my stories with things like “Free Palestine” and “anti-zionism is not anti-semitism,” which they later prove to be the exact same thing. For example, I shared a post on Instagram saying that Israelis and Palestinians are not the enemy, nor are Jews or Muslims. Rather, anti-semitism, Islamophobia, misinformation, Hamas, and hate are the enemies. Someone responded, describing the uncontroversial post as ”propaganda” and saying it is “ahistorical and not representative of the situation.”

“I think it's contradictory that the Israeli government is using a pride flag to convey a symbol of ‘love’ and acceptance while bombing hospitals and innocent civilians.” This is something someone said to me in response to asking her what pinkwashing was. Many people who send me these types of messages really only have one main objective - to fight. This person was able to twist my question into an anti-Israel argument, just for the sake of arguing. 

Where I live, [t]he Bay Area has become ground zero for this new level of intolerance in the U.S.,” said Tye Gregory, CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area, in a recent op-ed in Ha’aretz.

My passion for this issue is something that for the past 235 days has been reflected in all of my actions. I am a proud Jew and an even prouder Zionist and there is nothing anyone can do or say to change that. 

In our last year of Hebrew School we learned about the movement of Zionism, but not until 235 days ago could I have confidently told you what it means, or more specifically, what it means to me. The textbook definition of Zionism is a movement for (originally) the re-establishment and (now) the development and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel.” 

My definition is different. Zionism is being able to feel power in a world that wants you to feel powerless. It is standing in solidarity with our people, knowing nothing and no one could ever make you love our homeland any less. Zionism means that we, too, deserve a place to call home.

Camelia Schwartz is a BBG of Oakland BBG #2 from Central Region West and loves to ski.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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