UC Berkeley: First Impressions
Posted by alilyamongthorns on September 5, 2006
I drove up to Berkeley on Friday to look at an apartment for spring. It was my first time visiting the campus during school hours. [Editor’s note: Go Bears!]
No matter how many times I had been warned about the anti-Israeli atmosphere it still shocked and enraged me. My friend and I decided to grab a bite to eat after seeing the apartment and as we passed the entrance to the campus at Telegraph and Bancroft, we saw a man standing on a bucket on a chair, holding a large sign reading “Israel = #1Terrorist.” This was followed by 15 lines telling us why this is so.
What upset me so much wasn’t that some guy on a bucket thinks that Israel is engaged in terrorism but what it meant that he chose to stand there on this day. There is nothing going on right now! Israel hasn’t been in the news for weeks. I can understand setting aside a special day in response to an event. I can understand missing a day of work to join a protest for a cause one really believes in. But to stand somewhere day in and day out proclaiming the evil of a country no matter what is going on at the time sends a very different message than opposition to terrorism. It’s Israel itself that he opposes, no matter what it does. He has an absolute and blind hate of it.
Turning onto Telegraph, we passed by various street vendors. My friend and I, both being humorous bumper sticker and t-shirt fans, browsed through the selection. That is, until I looked up and saw the huge PLO flag hanging behind the table. We promptly left. I didn’t know that handmade jewelry and pot leaf t-shirts had anything to do with politics or the Middle East. It must be those darn diamond traders in Ramat Gan, Israel, that are monopolizing the jewelry trade and not letting the homemade jewelry sold on street corners guy in Berkeley make a living! It saddened me that after that, we had to look through the entire stock of merchandise at each table to see if there were any anti-Israel or anti-Semitic items before deciding if we were going to purchase something.
But thankfully, the situation is not hopeless. The anti-Israel guy was there, but he had no following. Most students were passing by either ignoring him or giving him a disapproving look. One student snapped a picture commemorating his first week at Bezerkeley. Also, my potential Asian-American roommates offered to “get me into” Hillel and showed off the Russian phrases they have learned from their Russian Jewish friends. A good reminder that just because someone screams the loudest doesn’t mean that they speak for everybody.