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Navigating Disorienting Times: A Generation Caught Between Conflicting Realities

In a world where upheaval and uncertainty seem the norm, one young man's journey from yeshiva in Israel to college in the United States encapsulates the disorienting and confusing nature of our times. The events that unfolded, from the Oct 7th massacre to anti-Israel demonstrations at his intended college, forced him to navigate through difficult choices and confront conflicting realities that challenged his norms and expectations.


The Intersectionality Between Safety and Identity


The story begins with the son of a friend of mine attending yeshiva in Israel when the Oct 7th massacre took place. Despite the turmoil and anguish surrounding the situation, he was reluctant to leave Israel, torn between his desire to continue his studies and the safety concerns raised by his worried parents. Eventually, the yeshiva closed, leaving the young man with no choice but to return home to the States. After a few weeks, he could resume his studies in Israel - only to face a new dilemma upon his return home.


The college he had planned to attend was rife with anti-Israel demonstrations that were escalating into violence. Faced with this unsettling reality, the young man was at a crossroads, questioning his safety and security in an environment hostile to his beliefs and identity. In search of alternatives, including online studies of lesser prestige, he grappled with the prospect of choosing a path that diverged from his initial plans. 


My youngest daughter, a few years post-college, said she is glad she does not have to face this situation herself. In her adult world, the antisemitism she encounters is much more subtle and has no immediate impact on her.


Resilience for the Next Generation


However, the disorienting and confusing nature of the situations this young man is encountering reflects a broader phenomenon impacting his generation. In a world where norms and expectations are constantly challenged and upended, they are forced to confront conflicting realities that could shape their worldview and identity. 

But it's a coin with two sides; yes, these turbulent times foster anxiety and uncertainty, but the ability to adapt and navigate them can also be a springboard for growth and introspection. 


On one hand, the constant barrage of conflicting realities can be overwhelming and destabilizing, creating a sense of insecurity and anxiety. The pressure to make difficult choices and sacrifices at a young age can lead to feelings of confusion and disillusionment, shaping the individual's worldview in ways that may be both positive and negative.

However, confronting disorienting situations can foster resilience and adaptability, equipping this generation with the skills to navigate unpredictable and complex environments. 


The Absurdity of Demands


In a situation worthy of an SNL parody, one of the organizers of the takeover of Hamilton Hall at Columbia University, a student who is apparently on the school meal plan, is demanding that the University provide them with boxed lunches as "humanitarian aid" lest the "protesters" die of starvation and thirst. Their hunger pangs were bumping up against their social pangs. They might have negotiated a safe corridor for Grub Hub deliveries as they clamored for divestment.  


And this idiocy claims the moral high ground. 


However, this idiocy must be faced, as the demonstrations are still gaining traction and digging in, like the UCLA students building a barricade like the famous blockade in Les Miz. But just like this horrifying situation seemingly materialized out of thin air – does it staying power? Will it dissolve when the "protestors" are deprived of gluten-free and vegan snacks? Or is it that we finally see beyond the curtain – and the shocking truth is that this situation has been years in the making, only waiting for the right circumstances to explode? Like any "Black Swan" event, only the victims are taken by surprise.


College Plans and Safety


If my friend's son upends his college plans, with an unknown effect on his future trajectory, "they" win. But what parent would send their child into a war zone? It's one thing to hold your ground in the Holy Land; quite another to jeopardize your safety for the quad on campus. Jewish students are "voting with their feet," their parents are voting with tuition dollars and alums with their donations. It's a lose-lose situation all around.

But that makes it such a hard decision – because there is no easy right or wrong answer for this young man and those who realize that the school of their dreams might instead be a nightmare. 


As this young man prepares to start college in the fall, his story serves as a poignant reminder of the complexities faced by his generation. The challenges of navigating disorienting times can impact their worldview and identity, shaping their beliefs and values as they mature. They can shrink and become risk-averse or solidify their identities and values.

  

The Challenge of Adversity


The generation of the Second World War is called the "Great Generation" for its ability to make hard choices and self-sacrifice in the stand against evil. Ultimately, the ability to confront and grapple with conflicting realities can pave the way for personal growth and resilience in a world of uncertainty. 


If nothing else, it's a wake-up call. Sometimes, the worst of times can bring out the best in people.

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