Last week there was a small news item that crawled under my skin and has stayed there until now when I pass it on to you. A female student at Hebrew University arrived in class wearing her IDF uniform. Not shocking in a country where the majority of its citizens have worn the uniform at some point in their lives. Also not shocking in a country that has been forced to defend its right to breathe from its birth or more accurately its rebirth.
In this non apartheid classroom sat another student, an Arab, who was offended by the uniform. That student made several remarks about the uniform. It should be noted that the class was not about the Israeli Palestinian conflict so the remarks were a disruption,
The professor allowed the disruption, and in this particular theater of the absurd she scolded the student for wearing her uniform to class, for which there could be any number of reasons, none of which would be a fashion statement or even a political one.
“You can’t be naïve enough to ask to be treated as a civilian when you are in uniform. You are a soldier in the Israeli army and people treat you accordingly.” Dr Carola Hilfrich
The bottom line is not whether she is a civilian when wearing a uniform. It also has nothing to do with a student’s right to his or her political beliefs. The guiding principle should be that no student will be verbally harassed by another student in a classroom.
The problem I have with the student who repeatedly spoke against the female soldier is not his political view. He can be against what he sees as an occupation and he can believe in the old mantra of from the river to the sea for that matter. That’s his business. The problem I have is that he tried to shame her and deny her right to be who she is. My kids served in the army. So did my friends and their children. It is a heavy burden that the people of Israel carry with pride. A burden forced on them well before 1967.
So to any student who is also in the IDF, I say wear your uniform when you need to, and wherever you need to. We are not mere fragments where other people decide what pieces we should be allowed to be. We are whole and we do not need permission.