Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Global conflict drives you from yourself

Natan Murillo

Religious identity can serve people in many ways, especially during college, which is a time of personal questioning and growth unlike any other. It provides a sense of morality, community and direction to those who embrace it and can become a core piece of who you are. 

I grew up in a religiously diverse household. My mom’s side of the family is Christian while my dad’s side is Jewish. I have always embraced both sides, but I was never involved enough to truly feel like I could claim either religious identity. Still, these perspectives became valuable parts of who I am. 

As I got older, it was difficult to commit to one, not wanting to abandon the time I spent in either religious affinities or these parts of my life. 

As I began my college experience, I intended to connect more to my spirituality. Because of my rich family history, I wanted to connect myself to Judaism. I always found comfort in the community and the family connection I got from being part of the temple. During that time, tensions rose in Israel. Like any conflict motivated by religion, there was controversy and passion on both sides. 

Unfortunately, there are often instances when that passion is taken too far. It has turned into hate speech, intimidation, threats and vandalism, creating a divide because so many people are emotionally invested.  

I have never been ashamed of being Jewish. I have always been so proud of my practicing friends and family, but as a result of the hysteria, part of me had become afraid to commit to it. I felt like I would be putting a target on my back.

The purpose of religion in my life is to find a safe place to be able to express myself and my connection to God in the presence of others. But when it no longer feels safe or accepted, that sense of security and the ability to connect to religion start to disappear.  

It’s hard for me to separate expressing my spirituality in a way that my family has a deep history with from taking a side in a part of the world where innocent people are dying. 

Many students in a similar position to myself who are looking to connect themselves to religion may struggle too. This global conflict has created a personal obstacle for students, even thousands of miles from the Gaza Strip. It makes it harder for them to find themselves and their relationship with God because no one wants to be protested, intimidated or feel like they are responsible for so much devastation. 

Individuals are so far removed from the world leader who chooses to resort to violence. One voice or one group will never represent each person who identifies with one religion. The discrimination that happens on a local level to those on both sides of the conflict chases away so many young people who want the opportunity to feel connected to something larger than themselves at a time when many feel lost. 

I’m not ashamed of being Jewish, but I am scared to be. 

Meltzer is a writing and rhetoric freshman from San Antonio, Texas.

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