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“Most of the time I stay quiet.”

This essay is part of Hey Alma’s series on what it means to be a Jewish student in response to October 7, the 2024 Israel-Hamas war, and campus protests. Click here to read the full vocal range.

Being a Jewish student on a college campus right now is a devastation, a joy, a frustration that slowly burns in your chest and won’t leave you.

I’m devastated by my peers’ refusal to engage in meaningful conversations because it’s much more cathartic to scream. Shortly after October 7, a friend texted me to say we couldn’t talk anymore; I watched her become one of the loudest leaders of anti-Israel protests on campus. I worked alongside Jewish, Palestinian and Muslim teachers to create an educational series about the conflict and the most vocal student protesters either didn’t show up to the events or only did so to dissuade people from showing up. engage due to perceived “bias” due to the inclusion of Jewish Perspectives.

I experience deep joy with my Jewish friends, knowing that we share an ancient, sacred and beautiful culture. We held a Jewish cultural club festival in April and hundreds of members of the Gonzaga community came out to support us, dance the hora with us, listen to our music, and enthusiastically eat our traditional foods. Our little community came together and made evil eye golems and bracelets when we felt least safe on campus and cried with laughter playing games late into the night at a retreat. Shabbat.

And I’m frustrated by so many voices who claim to represent us but never speak to us. Before October 7, the Jewish community was completely invisible on campus, and now a misconception of our community is hypervisible. At the protest on our campus last week, organizers took advantage of the voice of a Jewish student and authorized him to speak on behalf of all of us so that even though their words and actions invoked anti-Semitism, they can use his presence as a shield.

Most of the time I stay silent. I try to hear everyone’s point of view and when the space feels safe enough (an increasingly rare experience), I also share my point of view – a point of view that is much closer to that conflict than most of those around me. I try to build bridges between communities so we can grow together, but the path to true connection and community doesn’t have the same appeal as that of performative protests.

I am neither a good Jew nor a bad Jew. I am a Zionist, but not in the sense that everyone around me seems to define it. I am a Zionist in the sense that I want the Jewish people to not only live, but not have to face the constant metaphorical death of assimilation. I am also a student committed to social justice who works with the many cultural groups on our campus. I believe in the liberation and freedom of the Palestinian people. And if they weren’t full of anti-Semitism and violence, I too would be part of movements defending the rights of Palestinian civilians and peace. I am horrified by the actions of the Netanyahu government and pray every day for an end to extremism in the region that perpetuates violence and death.

It feels like everyone involved is descending into extremism and violence. But violence only begets violence and I refuse to participate in this self-perpetuating system. I refuse to give up my Jewish joy or the hope that we will come together for lasting peace.

— Gabriela Marquis of Spokane, Washington; Gonzaga University, Class of 2024

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Hey Alma or its parent company, 70 Faces Media.