Thursday, April 23rd, 2015, was a sunny SoCal afternoon on our beautiful UC Irvine campus. A group of students got together to celebrate what to them is one of the happiest days of the year, a day in which they were granted liberty to believe in their G-d and wear symbols of their religion and culture. This group of students along with some other people in the Irvine community to rejoice this day of freedom together with a BBQ and some music on Ring Road. Another group of students at UCI thought that this day was one of the worst days in history and felt that they had to do everything in their power to prevent those who celebrate this day as a day of freedom from doing so. They aligned right next to the BBQ in a large group with signs yelling at the top of their lungs for hours to deliberately disrupt the first group from rejoicing. Is the second group’s freedom more important than that of the first? Is it okay for one group of students to deliberately prevent another group of students from expressing their beliefs?
I belong to the first group. I am a Jewish, Israeli student at UCI. I was granted the right to live a free person in my country but now I no longer felt free because I could not celebrate the Day of Independence of the State of Israel, the only home that has been given to the Jewish people after years of annihilation. The group of pro-Palestinian students had infringed on my freedom of conscience, speech and religion. The interruption of the celebration of the Israeli Independence day is a custom at UCI. To the Israeli and Jewish students at UCI, the Israeli Independence Day represents the triumph over the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and the annihilation. To several Pro-Palestinian students, this day is referred to as Yawm al-Nakba, the Day of Catastrophe. It was saddening to know that my freedom is less important than that of other people. I am hopeful that next year I will be free to express my happiness and liberty on Ring Road without being threatened by protesting students yelling “Israelis are racist” and holding signs saying “Yawm al-Nakba.”
Avital Fischer is a phase G1 MD-PhD candidate in the joint MD-PhD Medical Sciences Training Program at UCI. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.