As part of our initiative to invite and encourage open dialogue about the complex issues facing our students, last night the Brody Jewish Center, CavPac, and Hoos for Israel hosted “Building Bridges,” a panel of Israel Defense Force reservists to Grounds to share their personal stories and answer tough questions from the University community. The idea behind the panel was to humanize the conflict, learn about Israeli society, and allow for honest conversation.
During the program, a group of students and non-students entered the room, began chanting anti-Israel slogans, holding up signs, and passing out information. Though student leaders and Rabbi Jake invited the protesters to participate in the program and address their concerns through conversation, protesters declined and continued to disrupt the panel.
Campus police were called, the protesters dispersed on their own, and the program continued. Following the protest, reservists made clear they wanted to carry on, and challenged students and community members to ask difficult and important questions. The conversation continued, and students with various points of view engaged in productive dialogue with the reservists.
While free speech and the ability to protest are important aspects of college life, we are disappointed that protesters refused to engage in conversation and instead continued to shout intimidating and hostile slurs directed at students, staff, and panelists. UVa is and has always been a place for the free exchange of ideas, learning from opposing views, and open dialogue.
Since last night, we have been in touch with University leadership and Hillel International to discuss the incident and determine how best to prevent this type of disruption in the future. We are committed to continuing programs that educate, raise pertinent issues, and welcome constructive dialogue around Israel and many other topics. We are committed to helping our students as they challenge, investigate, and form opinions about the world around them.
To our students: as always, staff is here to listen and support you in any way. Thank you for your willingness to work toward open dialogue and conversation on Grounds. Let us know if there’s anything we can do.