Samara Quintero ’25
I am afraid of being misunderstood or isolated as a result of sharing my thoughts in this article. But Trinity College must become a community in which students can ask questions and share their thoughts without fear of being ostracized. It is no secret that since Oct. 7, there has been tension, polarization and a lot of heartache, including the senseless shooting of one of our fellow students for simply being Palestinian. I am a Jewish student at Trinity College. After graduating high school, I took a gap year in Israel. After my freshman year of college, I returned for a summer internship with Natal, an organization providing PTSD treatment and resiliency training to Israelis. I feel deeply connected with this country that has been my home and continues to be the home of many of my friends. What I am about to write is simply an account of my perspective, not to be generalized to anyone else.
On Oct. 7, my dad texted in the family group chat, “Did you see what has happened in Israel?” I googled “Israel” and immediately saw that thousands of Hamas terrorists had invaded southern Israel. Over the coming days, we learned that they murdered about 1,200 people, including more than 40 children. They abducted 240 people. They shot at young Israelis attending the Nova music festival, murdering over 300 young people. My heart sank reading about the women who were gang raped next to their dead friends.
I was certainly not prepared for what I would see next. I opened Instagram and saw posts expressing joy at this terrible massacre. Post after post, people (including students at Trinity) glorified Hamas as “freedom fighters” and justified the massacre as “resistance.” Never in my 21 years of life, have I ever seen anyone celebrating the mass murder, brutalization and rape of any group of people. What makes this instance any different? People are celebrating the immense pain of Israel, the only Jewish-majority country in the world.
On Dec. 7, many students here at Trinity gathered to march in solidarity with Palestinians. These students chanted that “resistance is justified” even after a senior Hamas official had vowed to repeat Oct. 7 “again and again,” and that “everything we do is justified.” I heard, in those chants, not a call for non-violent action, but a justification for the atrocities committed on Oct. 7.
On the Long Walk, “From the River to the Sea” (a phrase often ending with “Palestine will be free”) was written in huge letters with chalk. I don’t read it as a call for two peoples living side by side in peace, but as a Hamas leader said, as a claim that “Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north,” and that “there will be no concession on an inch of the land.” Especially against the backdrop of Oct. 7, this sounds like calling for the annihilation of the Jewish state with no room for the 7 million Israeli Jews who live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
In an effort to have respectful conversations, I have been shut down. In one instance, I reached out privately to someone I considered a friend, letting them know how I had interpreted their reposted words as harmful. Rather than engaging with me in a conversation, they simply read my message, ignored it and unfollowed me on Instagram.
In an effort toward productive dialogue, I started to post on Instagram about the Jewish people’s history in Israel and the recent rise of antisemitism. In response, an alum from the Class of ‘23, whom I previously never knew, followed me and messaged me saying, “You have the media literacy of an INFANT. How did you get into Trinity or Oxford?” Before getting a chance to respond, they followed up, “ … if your president can lie on national television with no repercussions, what the f*ck do you expect from white assh*les like you”
I recently returned from study abroad to visit Trin for one week, feeling hopeless about having productive conversations. But one interaction gave me hope. I sat with a friend at Mather eating breakfast and talking about mundane life things. But I was dreading any conversation about the conflict. My friend is Palestinian, and we both had an emotional stake in this. I did not want to lose a friend, so I was hesitant to bring up the elephant in the room. But I am so glad that I did. We were able to talk about how our mental health has been since Oct. 7 and we expressed concern and care for each other’s loved ones. Most importantly, we were able to set aside our differences to prioritize our friendship. This conversation gave me hope for how I envision Trinity College to be—a place for students to embrace discomfort and practice empathy for one another. A place where people do not get demonized before being properly heard.
It is so comfortable to surround yourself with people who will agree with you and validate your opinions, and avoid those who don’t. But this only creates misunderstanding and tension and pushes us farther from anything productive. If we want to work towards dismantling polarization on campus and around the world, we have to be willing to be uncomfortable. We have to be willing to respectfully engage in conversations with people we think we disagree with. I’m a Zionist, someone who believes in Jewish self-determination in their ancestral homeland of Israel. If that word repels you, let’s do the difficult thing and start the conversation.