Noa Tishby (center) speaks with students at UC Berkeley, Oct. 13, 2022. (Photo/Lillian Ilsley-Greene)
Noa Tishby (center) speaks with students at UC Berkeley, Oct. 13, 2022. (Photo/Lillian Ilsley-Greene)

Actor and pro-Israel activist Noa Tishby visits Berkeley amid law school controversy

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In August, nine student groups at Berkeley Law adopted a bylaw pledging, among other points, to not host “speakers that have expressed and continued to hold views … in support of Zionism, the apartheid state of Israel, and the occupation of Palestine.”

On Thursday, Israeli actor and pro-Israel activist Noa Tishby, author of the 2021 book “Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth,” joined with Berkeley student group Tikvah: The Zionist Voice to speak to students about antisemitism on campus.

The event took place in Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza, a main gathering place on campus and center of student activity where groups regularly set up tables to promote their causes.

Tishby and students stood in front of a table displaying Tikvah’s logo—a Star of David with a lion at the center—and a banner that read “Anti-Zionism is antisemitism.” A crowd of more than 20 surrounded the booth, including students, among them members of Berkeley’s Hillel. The Israeli-American Council, a nonprofit that works to represent the Israeli community in the United States, had gathered members of the larger Bay Area Jewish community to attend the event. Those supporters waved Israeli flags while standing next to the student booth.

“We understand that the Jewish kids and students at Berkeley are feeling uncomfortable,” Tishby told J.

Tishby said she was inspired to visit Berkeley after 10 student groups, including Tikvah, released a statement on Oct. 3 condemning the organizations that adopted the anti-Israel bylaws, and after a provocative op-ed by Kenneth J. Marcus appeared in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, “Berkeley Develops Jewish-Free Zones.”

The conversations on Sproul Plaza grew heated many times, as students approached the booth to engage with Tishby. At one point, passing students chanted, “Free Palestine.” A member of Tishby’s team was present filming interactions.

RELATED: Several Berkeley Law student groups adopt ‘no Zionist speakers’ rule

Amir Grunhaus, Berkeley senior and president of Tikvah, said Thursday’s event was about standing up for Jewish voices on campus.

“We know that Berkeley is very hostile to Jewish and Zionist students,” Grunhaus said. “This is clearly a violation of the human rights of Zionist students. This is why we’re here today.”

Tishby had reached out to the student group and offered to come to campus, said Grunhaus.

“We’ve been dealing with a lot of anti-Zionism and antisemitism,” he added. “[Tishby] is a supporter of Israel. She fights against antisemitism. She’s an activist, and she wanted to help out, and that’s why she’s here.”

Another student who asked not to be named said that though she was not heavily involved in Jewish life at Berkeley, she attended the event out of growing concern.

“It’s getting really bad. I can see where this is going,” she said.

The Tel Aviv-born Tishby, who has appeared in numerous American television shows, including “Star Trek: Enterprise,” “Nip/Tuck,” and “CSI,” was appointed in April as Israel’s first ever Special Envoy for Combating Antisemitism and Delegitimization by Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Yair Lapid. Tishby also operates a production company, Noa’s Arc.

By her own description, she has been a pro-Israel activist for over a decade.

“This is happening in a lot of colleges around the United States and in the rest of the world,” Tishby said. “This needs to be discussed and it can’t continue this way.”

Lillian Ilsley-Greene
Lillian Ilsley-Greene

Lillian Ilsley-Greene was a staff writer at J. from 2022-2023.