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March 1, 2017 9:46 am

Columbia U Students Launch ‘Hebrew Liberation Week’ to Counter Anti-Israel Efforts, Empower Jewish Students

avatar by Lea Speyer

"Hebrew Liberation Week" installation at Columbia University to counter an anti-Israel "apartheid wall." Photo: Liat Goldfarb/Facebook.

A “Hebrew Liberation Week” installation at Columbia University to counter an anti-Israel “apartheid wall.” Photo: Liat Goldfarb/Facebook.

To counter a series of annual “Israeli Apartheid Week” events, a new program initiated by a grassroots advocacy group at New York’s Columbia University seeks to “empower Jewish and pro-Israel students to feel proud of their history, culture, identity and values,” an organizer told The Algemeiner.

Hebrew Liberation Week “is a positive celebration of the connection between the Jews and Israel,” said Rudy Rochman, president of the school’s chapter of Students Supporting Israel (SSI), contrasting the negative messages repeatedly conveyed by certain elements on campus.

To this end, he said, a series of large canvases and panels, depicting various aspects of Israeli culture and history, were displayed on a campus square. These included artwork of IDF soldiers; a drawing of a young person dressed like the Lion of Judah; and a written description of the relationship between antisemitism and anti-Zionism. The installation was purposely placed near an “apartheid wall,” glorifying violent “resistance” against Israel.

According to Rochman, reactions to the endeavor have been overwhelmingly positive. “Jewish students on both the Right and Left are absolutely shocked and amazed that something like this is possible at our school,” he said. “Causing many to come to our display instead of the ‘apartheid wall’ one.”

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This, he said, has provided the opportunity to conduct conversations with people on the anti-Israel side. “One of the best talks I’ve had so far is with a student who is Palestinian but grew up in Syria,” he recounted. “We shared our stories of struggle and suffering and learned about one another’s narrative. At the end of the day, while we both might have different viewpoints, we agreed that… dialogue at Columbia might one day inspire peace in Jerusalem and Ramallah.”

Israeli Apartheid Week is an annual series of events held on campuses around the world throughout February and March, with programming that includes mock checkpoints and calls for anti-Israel divestment and boycott campaigns.

Columbia topped The Algemeiner’s 2016 list of the “40 Worst Colleges for Jewish Students” in North America, due in part to its record of anti-Israel and antisemitic incidents on campus.

Watch a tour of the display below:

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