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Jewish students from US campuses tour Israel in effort to combat antisemitism

During the weeklong trip, students from Columbia, UPenn and Rutgers will meet with top Israeli officials, hear the testimonies of the Oct. 7 massacre and meet relatives of the hostages.

JERUSALEM – A group of American Jewish students who have experienced some of the worst antisemitism on their college campuses in recent months arrived in Israel on Monday to hear firsthand about the brutal terror attack carried out by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7 and brainstorm together ways to combat anti-Jewish and anti-Israel activities at their universities. 

"It is important to visit Israel in person because it is one thing to just hear about what happened here, but it’s completely different to see it in person and get a new perspective," Omer Nativ, 20, who is about to start her senior year at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, told Fox News Digital. 

"I feel like we often become desensitized to the news we hear, and this will be a good wake-up call and encourage everyone visiting to take more action," the finance major said.

At Rutgers, Nativ described how Jewish students have faced death threats and watched powerlessly as anti-Israel demonstrators were allowed to march freely through the school during classroom hours, accuse the college of "funding genocide," and seen their final exams disrupted due to a tent encampment set up on campus to protest Israel.

JEWISH STUDENTS FROM ACROSS US DESCRIBE RAMPANT CAMPUS ANTISEMITISM AT HOUSE HEARING: 'WASTELAND OF HATRED'

Similar disruptions and threats against Jewish students have been reported at campuses across the U.S. since Oct. 7, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists infiltrated southern Israel from Gaza, murdering, raping and kidnapping hundreds of people. 

However, in recent months, as Israel continues its military response to wipe out the Iranian-backed Islamist group from the Palestinian enclave, the protests at U.S. universities have intensified, with those involved taking out their anger on Jewish and Israeli students, according to reports. 

"I do my best to fight the hate at school, and I am involved in several Jewish organizations, but I want to gain more tools to do so," Nativ said, adding "I think that by actually visiting many of the sites [of the Oct. 7 massacre] and learning more about the history of what is happening here will give me a better overall understanding of everything."

During the weeklong trip, named "Take Action for Israel," 22 students from universities such as Columbia, UPenn, Brandeis, Berkeley, Rutgers, New York, Western Ontario and Texas will meet with top Israeli officials, hear firsthand testimonies from the survivors of Oct. 7, meet the relatives of those still being held hostage by Hamas and visit the communities around the Gaza Strip, including the site of the Nova Music festival.

Joshua Shain, a biology major at Columbia University, said that he decided to join the trip after experiencing multiple antisemitic attacks on his campus and wanted to gather information in order to stand up to those denying the Oct. 7 atrocities.

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"We need to come together, as a community of Jews and non-Jews alike, of everyone who believes rape and the murder of children is wrong, and say to the voices that deny that these atrocities occurred. They happened. I saw the evidence with my own eyes, and you couldn't tell me anything that would change what I saw," the 20-year-old told Fox News Digital.

Shain said there have been so many antisemitic attacks on his campus "I don’t even know where to begin." 

"Since the barbaric atrocities of Oct. 7, my friends and I have been verbally assaulted for wearing Stars of David, we’ve faced insults from total strangers in broad daylight, been spat at, and burned for bringing an American flag," he said, adding that Jewish students have faced death threats, had Swastikas daubed on their doors and received messages of hate via the university’s online forums.

"I grew up less than a mile away from the Columbia Morningside campus, and while my childhood was not free of antisemitism, it is nothing compared to the tidal wave that the Jewish and pro-Israel communities are facing now," he said, describing how last year, as a prospective student, he was told that there was some "Jew hatred and anti-Israeli racism" at Columbia, but that it was easy to avoid it.

"Unfortunately, that is no longer true," Shain said. "It has been impossible to escape and pretend to not hear the voices that want Jews dead."

Jack Landstein, who is entering his senior year at the University of Michigan, said that on his campus anti-Israel groups had set up a large encampment featuring a massive banner stating "long live the Intifada." 

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"These students have followed me around while I attempted to give an interview outside of the encampment," said Landstein. "They held up speakers and flags directly behind me in order to intimidate me, but I will not be intimidated by these antisemitic individuals."

Landstein, 21, who works for Michigan’s Hillel Jewish student organization, described how he has been cursed and accused of supporting a genocidal state. He said that the chants used by the pro-Palestinian encampment, including "there is only one solution, Intifada revolution," and "globalize the intifada," "is antisemitic speech that targets Jewish students like me on campus and creates a hostile environment filled with intimidation and hate."

The economics major told Fox News Digital that he hoped being in Israel right now will give "me the skills I need in order to return to the University of Michigan in the fall and help the Jewish community counter antisemitism and hate on campus."

"I really hope the University of Michigan administration works to foster a safe environment for all students and utilizes its numerous resources to foster dialogue," Landstein said. "In order for this to occur, the learning environment must be rid of antisemitism, and this begins by the university enforcing its policies." 

At Columbia, Shain said he would like the administration to "actually enforce campus rules" and Nativ said she was hopeful that Rutgers would do more to aid Jewish professors and students.  

"I wish that in the future, if another "encampment" occurs, the administration will shut it down much more quickly," she said. "I know that freedom of speech is huge but it is not okay for students to be chanting ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ and ‘globalize the intifada,’ because that is threatening not only for Jewish students, but every American as well."

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