I studied electrical engineering at Tel Aviv University.
One of the teaching assistants in the electrical engineering department used to arrive at lab sessions, where he mentored a group of students, in civilian clothes with a handgun on his hip, exposed so it could be seen and felt.
The course lasted a whole semester and every two weeks I had to encounter him. No one explained the sight that seemed strange to me. I never discussed the issue with classmates. To this day I carry in my memory this threatening experience which seemed unnatural in academia and in general.
I don’t understand. Why does a teaching assistant need to carry a weapon on campus?
I felt disgusted every time I was in that class. As an Arab, I feel that every armed man sees me as an enemy. That’s usually in relation to soldiers, who we are somehow used to see carrying weapons. But armed civilians send the message that even civilians like myself are armed against me. In my experience, this teaching assistant is claiming superior power in my space to defend himself from “The Arab”, which means that I am forced into the position of “The Enemy” because I’m an Arab and that shocks me.
Why is he carrying that weapon?
The perceived message is that he’s carrying a gun because he’s surrounded by Arabs and Palestinians from whom he needs to defend himself, so he makes a display of force and upends the balance of a shared civilian space. Especially since this isn’t a gun carried by a security guard or a policeman in the course of his work.