Letter to the Editor: Israel aligns with Tulane Values, hate does not

Recently, a Tulane student group wrote a Letter to the Editor in which it discussed its opposition to President Fitts’ visit to Israel to explore possible collaborations with Israeli universities. It claimed that any Tulane-Israel partnership is hypocritical to Tulane’s values, when, in reality, Tulane and Israel were both founded on the same values. Israeli universities strive to be innovative centers of research and action in order to positively impact the world at large. Similarly, in Tulane’s strategic plan, it clearly states that the university “aspires to be the most distinctive global research university known for its adaptability, innovation and unparalleled ability to empower people and communities to make a difference in the world.” Tulane’s core values are humanity, openness, integrity, courage, creativity, excellence and empowerment. Hate is not part of Tulane’s values or vision. Tulane’s values do, however, align with Israel and the work of Israeli universities. Contrary to the hateful and false accusations made about Israel in the letter, Tulanian values are Israeli values. 

The student group inaccurately labeled both Tulane and Israeli universities as closed-minded to diverse populations and even accused both parties of discriminating against these populations. The truth is that Tulane praises its openness and acceptance of all students from a vast array of backgrounds, regardless of race, religion, gender or socioeconomic status. Similarly, though Israel is a Jewish state, it is proud of its uniquely diverse identity. That diversity is reflected within its universities, many of which have affirmative action policies for Arab applicants. I am proud to be a Tulane student that values openness as expressed through the inclusion of diversity within Tulane and also in Israel. With political tension in America today, it is critical to have safe spaces where diversity of thought, opinion and personnel is embraced. 

In addition to openness, creativity is a chief pillar of both Israel and Tulane. Just like at Tulane, when faced with a problem, Israel sets out to find a solution. The act of constantly having to troubleshoot to adapt to everyday life in Israel has primed Israelis to possess innovative mindsets that have led to global breakthroughs. One of these innovations was the terror tunnel detection technology developed by the Technion Institute of Technology, as the student group discussed in their letter. What they failed to explain is that Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization, is currently in control of all civilians living in the Gaza Strip. They control everything from the amount of food, light, water and jobs that people can obtain. Additionally, they have taken UNRWA and Israeli aid and used it to advance their agenda to terrorize Israeli civilians. One of the manifestations of their terror has been building tunnels out of imported supplies like cement. The goal behind these terror tunnels is to cross under the border between Israel and Gaza, which is approximately one kilometer, and to murder innocent Israeli civilians. 

It’s hard to imagine the proximity between Israel and its neighbor, especially when this neighbor wishes for the demise of Israel’s existence and the death of all its people. I’ve stood at the border in Israel and heard adhan, the Muslim call to prayer from Gaza. I’ve also been in Sderot, the closest Israeli city to Gaza, during a Hamas rocket attack. Israelis that live in Sderot have between seven and 15 seconds to seek shelter from these rockets. The “code red” alarms that Israel developed for its citizens are the only things that help the people in Sderot sleep at night. In addition to rockets, the people of Southern Israel now also have to worry about Hamas terrorists coming into Israel through underground terror tunnels. Instead of being attacked by faceless rockets, consider the psychological effects and anxiety that a society must endure knowing that people are actively trying to physically break into their homes. Thanks to Israelis being able to constantly adjust to ever-changing circumstances, the Israeli people can find ease in their lives, despite facing the constant threat of terror. Being a top research institution, Tulane shares Israel’s exemplary employment of creative thought in the face of challenging situations. 

As part of Tulane’s dedication and love of humanity, Tulane prides itself on community engagement in the form of service. Service is something so integral to the Tulane experience that one cannot even graduate without contributing a minimum of 60 hours to benefit humanity in some way. Having the responsibility to make a difference locally, nationally, and globally is one of Tulane and Israel’s mutual interests. Israel has hundreds of NGOs that help countries around the world not only during times of crisis, such as Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Japan, but also with the struggles of everyday life.  

During my last trip to Israel, I visited Save a Child’s Heart, located in the central city of Holon. Save a Child’s Heart provides pro bono life-saving surgery to children from developing countries, regardless of nationality, religion, ethnicity, gender, or financial status. In addition to performing these surgeries in Israel, Save a Child’s Heart has also trained numerous doctors to perform these surgeries in their native countries, making healthcare for children with congenital heart disease more accessible.  

Not only does Israel actively engage in humanitarian missions across the globe, but they are also constantly helping their Palestinian neighbors. Everyday, Israel sends hundreds of trucks filled with humanitarian aid into Gaza, despite knowing that Hamas could very well use the aid in its efforts to terrorize the Israeli people, like with the terror tunnels. Since Israel’s founding, the nation has promoted the idea of bettering the region and making peace with its neighbors, not just working toward internal advancement. Like Israel, Tulane recognizes the importance of treating all people with dignity, respect, and kindness. Just as Israel was established with the intent to improve and help humanity, so too Tulane was created with that mission in mind. This goal is perpetuated through the contributions of Tulane students to global humanitarian efforts.  

Openness, creativity and humanity are among Tulane’s core values. President Fitts embodied these values when he visited Israel with the prospect of strengthening Tulane’s partnerships with fellow global research institutions. In the initial letter written by the anti-Israel student group, President Fitts was wrongly accused of hypocrisy during his efforts to build well-intentioned relationships and provide more opportunities for Tulanians. As a Tulane student who supports both Israeli and Palestinian interests, I was appalled when a student group claiming to understand my university and the strife of Palestinians chose to falsely represent Palestinians and Tulane with the usage of hatred. My university stands for the unification of all people, under the tenets of humanity, openness, integrity, courage, creativity, excellence and empowerment. I stand with Israel, and with the understanding of our university’s core values, innately so should all Tulanians.  


Sophie A. Jacobs

Tulane University ‘20