Tim Tai, Senior Photographer

As war rages on between Israel and Hamas, students say that tensions are running high across campus, contributing to heightened fears for personal safety and social consequences among students. 

On Oct. 7, Hamas launched a surprise attack against Israel that killed at least 1,400 Israelis. Israel responded with airstrikes and a “complete siege” of Gaza, killing at least 2,800 as of Monday night. As the humanitarian crisis in Gaza continues to escalate, United Nations officials have described Israel’s attacks as “collective punishment” in violation of international law. 

In the nearly two weeks since war officially broke out, Yale has been the site of rallies, vigils, petitions and opinionated social media posts. Last week, messages saying “Death to Palestine” were written on a whiteboard outside a Grace Hopper College dorm room, before being reported to Hopper administration. In an email to Hopper students on Oct. 14, Head of Hopper College Julia Adams expressed support for “academic freedom and the expression of views and dissent,” but she did not explicitly mention the whiteboard message. 

The News spoke with eight Yale students about their concerns for safety and emotional well-being.

“I haven’t really been using my voice because I’m worried about being doxxed,” an Arab Yale student said, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to safety concerns and fear of losing career opportunities. “My friends, whenever they protest, have been wearing masks and hiding their identities. They’ve changed their Instagram handles online.”

Graphic videos and images capturing the violence in Israel and Gaza have circulated on social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. Six students reported that their Instagram feeds are blanketed with strongly worded support from their peers for both Israel and Palestine.

Samad Hakani ’26, a photo editor for the News, said he has seen that his peers are scared to talk to their friends about the war because they are worried they might differ in opinion from one another in a way that could complicate their friendships.

He said he has appreciated that organizations like the Muslim Student Association and the Asian American Cultural Center, both of which he is involved with, have offered spaces for students to discuss their feelings relating to the war.

“Palestine is majority Muslim, and I feel their suffering,” Hakani said. “I share a community with these people.”

Tal Sheffer GRD ’29, who has been at Yale for a month and a half as a first-year doctoral student in the Physics program, said that the political posts he has seen online have felt divorced from the humanitarian issues he views as being at the heart of the continuing violence.

Sheffer lived in Israel until age 12 before moving to the United States. Almost all of his family remains in Israel, and he said that his cousin is currently stationed as a soldier on the border with Gaza.

“Online, it’s easy to press share on an infographic,” he said. “But in person, if you see me crying, it’s easy to see that this is a personal issue, not a political issue.”

Mika Bardin ’26, also said that important emotional context has been missing from unfolding political conversations on campus. 

Bardin moved to the U.S. from Kamrei Yosef, Israel, at age six. Many of her friends and family still live in Israel, and she said that she has lost contact with her friends at various points throughout the past week.

“I feel like I can’t mourn for people who have died because Americans think it’s ‘too political,’” Bardin said. “I’m scared that there will be justification when I find news reports of my friends who are dead.”

Sheffer said that if he were to see a post he found insensitive, he would reply to it and try to explain his perspective. 

Other students expressed more hesitance to engage in political conversations.

“It has so much weight for both Jewish and Arab students, and it’s hard to bring up but it has to be talked about,” the anonymous Arab student said. “It’s an odd issue because people who are usually on the same side of political beliefs diverge on this. It’s been difficult in friend groups.”

Events similar to the whiteboard messages in Hopper are not isolated to Yale. On college campuses across the country, unrest this week has raised concerns about student safety. 

At Harvard University, a statement last week from the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee saying that they “hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence” generated backlash from politicians and alumni

 As of Tuesday, Oct. 10, at least four online sites listed the personal information — including names, past employment, photos and hometowns — of students associated with the 34 clubs that originally co-signed the statement. On Oct. 11 and 12, a “doxxing truck” displaying pictures and names of Harvard students in those clubs drove through Cambridge, the Crimson reported.

At Columbia University, a woman assaulted an Israeli student on Oct. 11 while the student was hanging up posters of Hamas-held Israeli hostages; the woman now faces hate crime charges in Manhattan criminal court.

Administrators of Columbia and Barnard College then restricted access to their New York City campus to only those with active school IDs in advance of protests planned in the area for Oct. 12. That same day, hundreds of Columbia affiliates showed up to protest against escalating violence in Israel and Gaza on Columbia’s South Lawn.

Events like these have affected Yale students’ sense of security. A Jewish Yale College student, who spoke to the News on the condition of anonymity due to personal safety concerns, said that she and her family were afraid of the possibility of violent attacks on Friday, Oct. 13, after seeing viral social media rumors — since disproven — that a former Hamas leader called the day a planned “global day of jihad.” The student decided that it would be safest to travel home to spend the day with her parents.

Hate crimes across the country and separate from campuses are also impacting Yale students’ outlook. 

On Saturday, Oct. 14, a landlord stabbed a 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy in Illinois 26 times, killing him and wounding his mother. The landlord attacked the boy and his mother “due to them being Muslim and the on-going Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis,” the Will County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

Yash Roy ’25, a former staff reporter and production editor for the News, grew up in Illinois, 15 minutes away from where the stabbing took place. Roy said that as an Indian-American, he feels tense whenever there is violence that targets Muslims because “people associate all people who are brown.”

“Muslim and brown Americans are very scared right now because when something like this happens it threatens all of our safety,” Roy said. “It’s not like you can turn off being brown. You’re always easily identifiable.”

Yale Police Chief Anthony Campbell wrote in a statement published online on Oct. 13 that many members of the Yale community have reached out to the YPD in recent days over concern about their safety on campus. 

He said that he has been in contact with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and “other agencies.” 

“They are unaware of any credible threat against Yale University or any members of the Yale community,” Campbell wrote.

Yale College’s October recess concludes on Oct. 23 at 8:20 a.m.

Correction, Oct. 19: Hakani discussed the Asian American Cultural Center, not the Asian American Students Alliance; this article has been corrected accordingly.

Josie Reich covers Admissions, Financial Aid & Alumni for the News. Originally from Washington, DC, she is a sophomore in Davenport College majoring in American Studies.
Tristan Hernandez covers student policy and affairs for the News. He is also a copy editor and previously reported on student life. Originally from Austin, Texas, he is a sophomore in Pierson College majoring in political science.