How Ariel Mizrahi, a young Los Angelino Jewess is conducting Jewish life in an unfriendly to Jews University of California, Berkeley, a public land-grant research university in Berkeley, California.
What the Name Ariel Means
The name Ariel is a combination of the words ‘lion’ and ‘God’; the lion is a symbol of courage, strength, and valor.
The origin of the name Ariel is the Bible. The name Ariel is mentioned and noted as one of the names of the city of Jerusalem.
People named Ariel are characterized by their ability to project authority and high and unique managerial abilities.
Also, they tend to act out of generosity, are caring, concerned for others and have a desire for justice and equality and therefore will succeed in attracting a wide audience of supporters. They are also characterized by management skills and the pursuit of success that sometimes may come at the expense of their friends and family members.
Antisemitism on US Campuses
It is well known that many US campuses harbor Antisemitism, meaning, dislike-to-hatred of Jews. The University of California, Berkeley, is stigmatized with Jew intolerance, especially when that person declares to be a Zionist*, a pro-Israel, or simply is standing up to Jew or Israel hatred, meaning Antisemitism.
*A Zionist is a person who belongs to the Zionist movement or advocates its principles. Zionism is a Jewish national movement that originated in Europe in modern times that called for the national liberation of the Jewish people and the establishment of a democratic Jewish state in the Land of Israel.
This is what Ariel Mizrahi, a 21-year-old Los Angelino, currently a student at Berkeley discovered when she was first engaged with the “Bears For Israel” organization, to which she is now serving as the organization’s president. Since Oski the Bear is Berkeley’s official mascot, the name ‘Bears For Israel’ derives from it.
While manning a recent ‘Bears For Israel’ table, a young student joyfully approached the table and told Ariel that what makes him sleep well at night is the thought that she and her family will die. While Ariel attempted to calm the irrational man, a fellow student full of hate, he, in return, became more aggressive and used “I want all the Zionists to die” slander.
“Do you know that 95% of Jews are Zionists?” Ariel tried to make clear to the anti-Jew-anti-Israel student how malicious his remark was. And he replied, “yes, and I hope they all die.”
While internally Ariel was irate she kept her cool. But the rancorous student carried on yelling, cursing, and threatening her: “be careful,” he shouted. “You are nothing, zero, I spit on you,” etc.
“I was afraid,” Ariel told her mother. “I did not know what he could do to me.”
The incident was reported to the university police and the administration and the student of history was identified. However, the follow-up on this case is not yet clear.
Though Ariel was rather shaken, she was not dissuaded from her rather prolific pro-Jew-pro-Israel campus activities.
Berkeley and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)
A week after the incident Ariel and her fellow Jewish students attempted to have Berkeley’s Senate approve and adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which is a non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism.*
*IHRA is the only intergovernmental organization mandated to focus solely on Holocaust-related issues, so with evidence that the scourge of Antisemitism is once again on the rise, it resolved to take a leading role in combating it while to begin addressing the problem of Antisemitism, there must be clarity about what Antisemitism is.
Though it is rather surprising that Berkeley’s students’ council has not yet adopted the IHRA, what was more unpleasantly surprising was what Ariel and her friends faced.
It became clear that many of the Berkeley student senate members were not interested to partake in the IHRA vote. They were concerned that they would be branded as “Jew lovers.” So they left the plenum and the rest of the Senate members simply voted against adopting the IHRA code. Severn senators did not show up for the vote, which is an excuse only when it comes to Jews and Israel matters, and will not cut the mustard if it is other than Jews or Zionist groups.
Ariel and her group worked tirelessly with the senators to educate them on the Antisemitism subject and why it is important for the IHRA to be adopted by Berkeley. In return they received expletives and were accused of distorting the truth and that they were attempting to silence the pro-Palestinian-Arabs’ hateful rhetoric.
Berkeley Is No Safe Place for Jews
Ariel and her group often address Berkeley’s administration complaining that Jewish students on campus do not feel safe, sense constant rejection and lack the campus community’s support.
Ariel found herself caving to the pressure, physically and mentally sick, to the point when she had to fly home to take a deep breath.
I met with Eti, Ariel’s mother, just after a jaw-dropping anti-Semitic incident her daughter experienced on campus. “Until now I lived in the US, as a free Jewish citizen who sees herself lucky not to have experienced Antisemitism,” Eti reassessed the situation her daughter found herself dealing with. “That ‘luck’ has changed in recent days and in light of the rising Antisemitism in the US, I have been disturbed and filled with anxiety for the future of my Jewish children in the country where they were born.”
“Usually Ariel is not mentally shaken,” Eti continued. “Ariel, the subject of this anti-Semitic incident, usually does not fear anti-Jew incidents at UC Berkeley. But this time it was different; it was not a political discussion, it was literally a life-threatening incident. As parents, we insisted that Ariel gets away from it all and fly home to Los Angeles, to a safe environment. Experiencing scary, life-threatening anti-Semitic activity on campus, with Berkeley being one of the most anti-Semitic campuses in the entire US, cannot be taken lightly.”
“As Ariel’s parents we were very concerned,” Eti continued. “For her safety should we strongly advise Ariel to reduce her pro-Israel, anti-Antisemitism campus activities? What do we teach our child to do when things get tougher? To leave the battlefield and hide, an approach that goes against my own life principles which I taught my children to live by? But when I am thinking as a mother, the hen who is protecting her children I have to navigate between the thin lines of what is right and what is safe for my daughter.”
Ariel, who knows her limitations did not retreat. She charged her batteries in her loving caring home environment and was ready to reassume her activities. “These anti-Semites do not know how much Jewish and proud to be Jewish I am,” she ended her parents’ suggestion to become less dominant in her activities on campus.
Ariel simply fights on behalf of many Jews who do not fight for their Jewish identity, for the nation-state of all Jews, Israel, and for everything she endearingly believes in.
What Makes Ariel the Person She Is?
Born in Los Angeles to Jewish parents who were born in Israel and are very involved in the Jewish community is a very good beginning. She spent her first 12 years of schooling in Jewish schools. Supporting Israel, in any way, shape, or form, is the Holy Grail of the family’s activities to which Eti and her husband Shaul always took their children along. Apart from Ariel having a very assertive character, as they say, the apple did not fall far from the tree. So when Ariel arrived at Barkley, her first step into the secular academia world, there was no surprise she quickly turned to be a recognized activist on campus for all that is related to fighting Antisemitism and supporting Israel.
“If we, the Jewish students, do not have a strong presence on Berkeley’s campus there will be no one to raise a voice for us and fight our fight. After all, Berkeley is a good school and the Jewish community on campus is tightly connected. Though for some difficult reasons to fathom some Jewish students do not support Israel, our many activities make us visible in every aspect,” is what Ariel makes clear.
For her support of Israel Ariel is often attacked verbally. She knows all well that there are professors who use the proverbial Jew slander such as “Jews control the economy.” Also that there are students who speak against Israel and Jews and had it been against any other ethnic group or religion it would not be acceptable but when it comes to Jews all goes.
Ariel learned that to stand by and for the Jewish nation does not fall under the liberalism umbrella. Therefore, her group always find themselves astonished when they are constantly being strongly rejected on each and every step they attempt to take in order to support the Jewish nation and protect Jewish students on campus. “It is almost an expected routine we got used to,” Ariel describes the reality at Berkeley. “But to threaten my family and my life indeed crossed all red lines.”
Being Resolute Takes Activities to a Higher Level
The struggle at Berkeley to pass the IHRA International definition is ongoing. Ariel has entered the race to be elected a member of Berkeley’s Student Senate. In this position she will continue to arbitrate to pass the IHRA definition and any and all laws that will help fight Jew and Israel hatred on Berkeley’s campus.
Ariel is unlike many students who fear to take action because they realize in what environment they need to live. She believes that now is the time for the Jewish community to unite and fight.
Ariel’s hope is that seeing what she and ‘Bears For Israel’ do, more students will not give up their rights, raise their free speech voices and join them in fighting the ugly notion of Antisemitism and the rejection of the state of Israel.