Harassed students should study in Israel

Since October 7, and especially in recent weeks, more and more American patriots, let alone Jews, are approaching this exciting leap forward apprehensively.

Today, May 1, is College Decision Day. High school seniors across America are finalizing their university choices.

Since October 7, and especially in recent weeks, more and more American patriots, let alone Jews, are approaching this exciting leap forward apprehensively.

Would you spend $82,866 annually to attend Harvard University after so many students celebrated Hamas’s sadism – blaming the Israeli victims, not the Palestinian marauders?

Would you spend $89,857 annually to attend Columbia University after so many students yelled “Burn, Burn Tel Aviv,” and “Go Back to Poland,” or robotically tried pushing out any “Zionists” in “our camp”?

Fortunately, attractive alternatives exist – with later application deadlines. Let’s launch Operation Eucalyptus – draining the academic swamps by encouraging America’s best students, Jews and non-Jews, to attend low-cost, high-quality alternatives: Israeli universities, whose tuitions range between $4,000 and $15,000 annually.

Students and parents should explore the rich opportunities Israeli universities offer – for one year or, ideally, full undergraduate or graduate programs.

Watching the insanity perverting academia, many Israeli universities improved their English-language offerings.

Bar-Ilan University, a proudly Zionist university, offers compelling undergraduate programs in English, communications, political science, and Jewish studies.

Reichman University – known for its quality teachers – teaches entrepreneurship, business administration, psychology, and computer science.

Tel Aviv University – which US News ranks as Israel’s No. 2 global university behind the Weizmann Institute of Science and ahead of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – has expanded its English-language programs through its Lowy School, too.

And you can help rebuild the Negev by studying at Ben-Gurion University.

Moreover, most universities help students learn Hebrew, freeing them to choose from a much broader intellectual lineup.

A great appeal of Israeli universities is Israel itself. Students experience this amazing experiment in creating the world’s first Jewish democracy. They learn what it’s like to live in a still-patriotic country, which values tradition and family, celebrates national holidays with rituals, not sales, puts politics aside to defend the homeland, and raises happy, grounded teenagers who maintain its high ranking in world happiness surveys.

As students consider these alternatives – and this alternative liberal democracy – Israeli universities should keep improving.

Universities should launch honors colleges and great books programs, featuring quality teaching, low teacher-student ratios, dazzling reading lists, discussion-oriented classes, rigorous writing seminars, and liberal ideas, peppered with Jewish and Zionist touches.

Such offerings would counter the ideologically charged propagandizing invading many American classrooms, especially in the humanities and social sciences.

Internship and mentorship opportunities in Israel’s hi-tech eco-sphere can reinforce Israel’s strong STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) offerings.

Philanthropists should finance these new initiatives while subsidizing students. Beyond tuition grants, qualifying students should get help flying home twice a year. This will help Israeli universities feel like they’re next door.

Studying in Israel should become as central to Diaspora Jews’ experience as the bar-bat mitzvah and the Birthright trip. It’s the logical follow-up. With the bar-bat mitzvah you embrace the Jewish community. Birthright introduces you to Israel 101. Studying in Israel then boosts your Jewish literacy and communal ties ever higher. Studies show: most Jewish communal leaders spent serious time in Israel.

If this project works, non-Jewish students will be increasingly attracted to Israel’s universities – and Israel, too. Most professorial propagandists underestimate their students. Most students prefer real education – they don’t want to be bullied intellectually or canceled for thinking independently.

This spring’s anti-Israel, pro-Hamas encampments mobilized a rabid minority, not a growing majority; shrill shouters, not the silenced majority. Dozens of angry, aggressive fanatics can ruin the atmosphere on a campus of thousands, harassing hundreds of Jewish and pro-Israel students. Israel appeals to students who want to be awakened to great intellectual debates, not deadened by heavy-handed woke theology.

IT’S TIME to start thinking big – because our students and our society face a growing problem. Thinking that firing some university presidents will solve today’s academic crisis is like deciding that recycling newspapers saved the planet. The rot runs much deeper; it’s systemic, to use that favorite academic term. Only a multidimensional approach can calm this craziness.

For next September, schools must make it clear that anyone who vandalizes school property, harasses schoolmates, or disrupts the university’s essential functions – especially classes – will be suspended, forfeiting the semester’s tuition. That’s not protected speech. See how long the rebellions last, if schools send the worst agitators home, forcing their families to cough up another year’s worth of tuition. Call it Operation Grow Up or Pay Up, as students take responsibility for their actions.

Personal injury lawyers should help students who have been harassed, let alone assaulted, sue their tormentors. Parents will then also face legal fees defending their undisciplined children. Call it Operation Atticus Finch, honoring To Kill a Mockingbird’s honorable lawyer.

Scenes of the reinstated “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” at Columbia University on its fourth day. Photo: Wikimedia

Meanwhile, universities should start bypassing those liberal arts departments that have turned illiberal, by creating new centers of liberal thought, great books, and critical thinking on campus. Call it Operation Owl – for all who give a hoot about wisdom.

And universities should weigh whether certain benchmarks regarding openness in the classroom and teaching quality must be imposed, even on tenured professors. Call it Operation Dumbledore, celebrating Harry Potter’s great teacher.

Finally, framing this as a consumer revolution against educational malpractice, parents and students should demand educational reform, consider alternatives in the US such as Yeshiva University and Touro College, and, most important of all, come home to Israel, to study, to live, and to breathe our free, old-new, truly liberal, blue-and-white air, aided, most generously, by Operation Eucalyptus.

Published by Jerusalem Post