“A big part of intersectionality is showing up and supporting each other.”
That was the prevailing message from Hen Mazzig, an Israeli activist who spoke at this university’s campus on Wednesday, Oct. 23 on the issue of Israel and intersectionality.
Mazzig’s speech largely recounted his life story, which included serving in the Israeli Defense Forces as a self-described queer Israeli, and opened a discussion among the group of students and community members in attendance.
The event was held by Terps for Israel and took place at the Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center on campus. Dan Alpert, president of the organization and a junior marketing major, believed it was necessary to expose students to different points of view.
“It’s important for students to hear both sides and to engage people that are doing different things with Israel,” he said.
Mazzig is currently on a three-week North American speaking tour at campuses including this one, George Washington University and the University of New Haven. Alpert believed Mazzig was a clear choice for Terps for Israel to host as a speaker.
“You should just bring in people with different perspectives, and I think Hen brings in a really interesting perspective,” he said.
While Mazzig acknowledged that he experienced homophobia from soldiers in the IDF after coming out as gay to his commander, he pointed out the support of higher-ups as evidence of the change in the Israeli discourse about LGBTQ issues.
“I felt the protection of my commanders,” he said. “I was comfortable with who I am.”
Mazzig also felt that continuing to speak contributed to the debate around LGBTQ rights in the Middle Eastern country.
“We are visible, and visibility actually leads to a change in acceptance,” he said.
Students who attended the event acknowledged that while this university has a robust Jewish population, intersectionality is an issue that still plagues the community.
“I think the different groups within Judaism are pretty segmented on campus,” said Lea Glazer, a senior marketing and finance major.
Vanessa Lewinsky, a senior hearing and speech sciences major, agreed.
“Ever since my freshman year, I’ve seen the difference between going to Hillel, Chabad and Meor,” she said. However, Glazer said, this event was a step in the right direction.
“I think having events like this… will definitely help,” she said.
Mazzig also stressed the importance of acknowledging the different sects of Jews as being valid. “Israel is not just for one type of Jew,” he said.
While in the IDF, Mazzig served in the COGAT unit, a specialized force dedicated to providing humanitarian aid, as well as being a liaison between the United Nations and other non-governmental organizations, the Palestinian Authority and Israel’s armed forces.
In discussing his interactions with Palestinians during this work, Mazzig told of his coordination of a medevac for two young Palestinian boys who were injured when they picked up an explosive device and it detonated. Mazzig’s unit was called into action to get the boys to a hospital, where they made a recovery.
The activist said actions like that assist in bridging the obvious divide between Israelis and Palestinians.
“Everyone says maybe that it’s a drop in the ocean,” he said. “But the ocean is made of drops.”