From the beginning I never saw one. I was looking for it too. Freshman orientation at McNeese State University begins in Bulber auditorium, where the balcony flags encamp above and around where we sat. I saw flags from possibly more than one hundred different nations encircling us. Orientation is a well-designed welcome to students from all backgrounds. The excitement and energy they bring is tremendous. I was excited to be a student, again, but I wondered inside, “where is the Star of David?”
After some information and a few fun skits, the McNeese Peer Leaders led a walking tour of campus and we attended a student organization fair. At the fair, student organizations send a representative (usually the group president or senator) to set up tables with information and provide help to sign you up.
Once the semester began I looked for a pro-Israel group and an Israeli flag. There was not one. The Jewish flag is not represented at the multi-cultural center or the student exchange in Smith Hall. In fact, there are no exchange students from Israel attending McNeese.
I learned there was a group called Jewish Cowboys (the McNeese mascot is a cowboy) several years before, but the Organization’s President graduated. I guess he was the last Jew on campus besides one professor. I searched for the professor who had been the adviser for Jewish Cowboys; I wanted his help opening an organization. He declined the offer. So did several other professors. I was told no because Israel was too controversial. I received a firm “no” from another professor who said he did not want to offend anyone in his department. I was told “no” at least four times before I got a yes. By this time I was in my fourth semester.
I was so excited. Finally, we started a pro-Israel group and at our first meeting, a Muslim professor sat in on our meeting. Dr. Hague works with the Islamic Center on campus and with the many Muslim students from various nations that attend the university. Only once the meeting was nearly over did he announce himself and his religion. He began to question our motives and my motives more specifically. He questioned my statement that McNeese students did not have the best information available about Israel and the ongoing conflict in the Middle-East. He asked, “Where do you think the bad information is coming from?” I said, “I do not know. I am not here to accuse anyone. My goal is to get accurate information in the hands of students. Then, they can make an informed decision for themselves.”
Now, with the help of CAMERA, we will be able to do just that. Our first goal is to get the information CAMERA provides in the hands of every student leader and all students on and around campus. Qualifying for CCAP is a game changer for our organization. We will be able to have weekly events to promote healthy conversation about Israel. The more events you have, the better opportunity you have to build relationships with other students. We will use these opportunities as a platform from which to educate the student body concerning the truth about Middle-East reporting in America.
Thanks to CAMERA for their help in creating our new banner. The nearly seven foot tall banner, which includes the Israeli flag, flies in the New Ranch Student Union Hall located smack dab in the middle of campus. No longer do students at McNeese have to search for the flag of America’s best friend and ally, Israel. Am Yisrael Chai.