As the tents in Tel Aviv remain standing and their inhabitants continue protesting the city’s rising housing costs, the movement’s communal environment and physical presence has started to influence other groups. Hillel, the organization that oversees Jewish life programming on American college campuses, is hoping to recreate that open atmosphere with its new Talk Israel initiative, which is heading to 20 college campuses this fall.
The tents—designed as places for students to engage in thoughtful dialogue about Middle East issues, particularly as the September U.N. vote for Palestinian statehood nears—also signify an effort to make the issues in Israel, such as the housing protests, more tangible for U.S. college students.
“The tents, set to go up for a full day sometime in late September, are part of Hillel’s response to the expected vote on Palestinian statehood at the United Nations in September. The tents might involve a video link with speakers as well as other common resources, but each campus on its own will decide the crux of the tent’s activities. Hillel has not yet chosen which campuses will get a tent.
‘The tent has got flaps, but at the same time it’s open,’ Wayne Firestone, Hillel’s president, said in his plenary address at the conference. ‘It’s open in the sense that we want to be open and inviting to students that want to engage in conversations about Israel that we are so passionate about, and we refuse to allow ourselves to be marginalized and polarized by those on the edges and outside the tent.’”