I Am Liberal, Ivy-League, and Pro-Israel
By Kaila Zimnavoda
Amidst the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, we are witnessing a disturbing surge in antisemitism that knows no sociopolitical bounds – from white supremacists displaying neo-Nazi banners to radical leftist anti-Zionists harassing Jewish individuals due to their perceived support for the Jewish state. On campuses, there have been hundreds of anti-Israel protests in the name of Palestinian self-determination, many of which explicitly or strongly implicitly support Hamas and advocate for violence against Jews in Israel.
We hear of Jewish students on college campuses who are marching with pro-Palestinians. I, too, am a Jewish, liberal, Ivy-league student who wishes for peace and Palestinian autonomy. But, unlike the masses, I stand unequivocally with Israel. Since October 7th, I have dropped everything in my life to support Israel’s war against Hamas and Hezbollah.
As an American Jew raised in a deeply Jewish home and educated in co-ed yeshiva schools through high school, I hold a core belief in the infinite nature of each human soul and the inherent meaning of life. My Jewish upbringing has shaped me into a consistent advocate for equality and diversity. I am a devoted feminist, anti-racist, supporter of the gay community, and a proponent of expanding democratic rights for all. I believe that children are the world’s biggest blessing and that each untapped potential, due to discrimination or social unrest, is a great sadness.
At the same time, my understanding of history, particularly 20th-century Jewish history, has made me realistic about humanity’s stupidity, vices, greed, propensity towards extremism and outright evil. From an early age, I’ve recognized that ignorance of these realities is a convenient stance for those unwilling or unable to confront harsh truths.
When I matriculated into Brown University during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, I noticed an extremist ignorance in my peers’ language about the world. They approached academics, social interactions, and politics through simplistic binaries—powerful vs. powerless, oppressors vs. oppressed. Entire groups were generalized by race and gender, as long as they were considered oppressors. Phrases like “all white people are racist” and “all men are sexist” were commonplace. Over three years at Brown, I observed, with increasing concern, trends of hyper-politicization, herd mentality, and blind adherence to radical leftist ideology.
In the instant that Hamas infiltrated Israel’s borders, barbarically massacred and abducted innocent civilians, and the world called Jews corrupt oppressors – my worries were confirmed. Western institutions and particularly higher education campuses, while claiming to aim for the highest ideals of learning, have succumbed, so easily, to antisemitism born out of intellectual laziness and the weaponization of the social justice movements. In conversation with my uncle, a university professor in NYC, I’ve come to realize that they have been hijacked by decontextualized knowledge and misinformation campaigns by nefarious actors like China and Russia, who are in cahoots with Iran and, by extension, Hamas. Students, supposedly of the highest caliber of intellectual capability, have allowed the most simplistic propaganda and algorithms to put words into their mouths. They have failed to recognize that Israel’s fight against Hamas is actually their fight too. They have not understood that Hamas terrorists are a scourge on the progressive values harbored on campuses. “Queers for Hamas,” a slogan I saw at a rally recently, is nonsensical.
I, too, support Palestinian self-determination but believe that it is willfully ignorant to misuse inaccurate redefinitions of terms like ‘genocide’, ‘apartheid’, ‘white supremacy’, and ‘ethnic cleansing’. Chanting “any resistance is justified” is anti-Semitic when the resistance involves the rape, mutilation, torture, and the abduction of innocent Jews. It is hypocritical to insist that certain words and concepts should come with trigger warnings due to their potential to make individuals feel emotionally unsafe while justifying real violence by terrorists.
By destroying Hamas, Israel is fighting a wave of 21st-century Islamist extremism that has negatively affected many societies in the Middle East and in the West and that has been holding the Palestinian cause hostage. Hamas doesn’t represent the majority of Muslims, nor the best interests of Palestinians. They have suppressed their own people to the extent that integration into a viable society becomes near impossible. Their hatred of Jews and consistent war stance against Israel serves as their excuse.
I want nothing more than to have this war settled without another single bullet fired. The human toll in the short-term has been terrible – the civilian massacre by Hamas on Oct. 7 with hostages still captive, human shielding by Hamas under hospitals and schools, and the nature of heavy artillery on Gazan civilians. But I will not be naive and illogical and assume that if Israel simply pulls out without serious repercussions for Hamas – without disturbing their terror tunnel system, minimizing their military capabilities, and bringing the hostages home – we will have peace in this region.
I came to Israel in late September 2023 to spend a semester at Ben Gurion University, but never made it to campus. On Monday, Oct. 9th, staying with cousins in Jerusalem, I felt an immediate and dire need to take action. I offered my help to a good friend, who I knew had gone down to the active war zone on Shabbat to try to save his friend, David Newman, from the Nova festival massacre. When he asked me to grab a computer and head over, I was at his apartment in a matter of minutes.
It all started with a WhatsApp group chat, named “Let’s Do Something”, a resounding call to action born out of a feeling of helplessness. This group chat, started by David Newman’s best friends once they learned he had been killed by Hamas terrorists, initiated a cascade of activity that would make our group of five American-Israelis, working out of a Jerusalem apartment, one of the largest suppliers of humanitarian aid, medical aid, and tactical gear to Israel in the first days of the war. Our organization, Soldiers Save Lives, in Memory of David Newman, has since raised over $1.3 million and sent over 300,000 pounds (valued at $20+ million) of gear and aid on 10 flights to Israel.
Since the first hours of the war, we have each quit our jobs and set aside our academic plans to volunteer daily and round the clock, with the highest levels of the IDF, elite unit commanders, civilian response teams, and the Ministry of Defense to support Israel. Our strategic partnerships enable us to be one of the few organizations with a full-service, US to Israel Air Bridge supply chain; we manage donation collection, shipment, and distribution. We also purchase hard tactical gear from Israeli suppliers on behalf of IDF units, who then pick up the equipment themselves. So far, we’ve directly funded 15 IDF units and civilian response teams, providing them with life-saving hard tactical gear.
Soldiers Save Lives is centered on the reality that we are helping Israeli soldiers save both Israeli and Palestinian Lives by providing them with gear to function more effectively in a dangerous environment and avoid high civilian casualties. I sleep well at night knowing that I am providing support to the IDF against an enemy who puts their civilians directly in harm’s way, who hoards fuel and food, who built rockets and tunnels for 16 years instead of hotels and jobs.
Israeli soldiers are our soldiers of humanity. It’s time that Western institutions wake up and realize it.
About the Author
Kaila Zimnavoda is a graduate of SAR High School and senior at Brown University studying Behavioral Decision Sciences, Political Science and Sociology. She came to Israel in late September 2023 to spend a semester of study at Ben Gurion University, but never made it to campus. She now works full time as Chief Marketing Officer of Soldiers Save Lives.
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