By Joyana Richer
Venezuelan llan Lopez spoke about his escape from his socialist life in Venezuela and his journey to Israel.
Texas State University opened its doors to guest speaker Ilan Lopez on Tuesday. Lopez was born in Venezuela and moved to Israel in 2010 as a part of the Israeli Defense Force. His father is a Christian Venezuelan and his mother is the daughter of a Holocaust refugee. Having parents from different backgrounds along with his own experience of socialist oppression spurred his interest in multiculturalism and humanitarian acts.
As a Jewish Venezuelan, he always felt under fire and under interrogation because the rule of Chavez and political crises caused Venezuela to be a dangerous place to live. Just to show the level of oppression and difficulty these people suffer, about 150,000 people emigrated in the year 2016 alone and inflation rates were at 800 percent.
Leaving family and possessions behind, 20-year-old Lopez embarked to study political science at Haifa University in what he calls the “multicultural city” of Israel. Similar to his early life in Venezuela, he experienced a lot of multiculturalism in Israel.
“Israel is a tiny tiny country in the Middle East, the only democracy in the Middle East,” said Lopez. “The only country where freedom of speech is a reality. Where men and women have the same rights. Where minorities are respected. Where the Christian minority is growing…the only country where you can be gay and alive at the same time.”
Israel has a lot of minorities like Christians, Arabs, Jews, etc. all living together. Its neighboring countries, Lopez said, “[don’t] love the idea of sharing the land with a democracy.” But the crisis of war and terrorism was something very familiar in Venezuela that was also going on in areas of Israel.
After finding out more about multicultural struggles in Israel, he knew he had to do something, so that’s when Lopez joined the Israeli Defense Forces or IDF. During his two years in service in the IDF, he said he was able to have some of the richest moments of his life and able to focus on the humanitarian side of it, called COGAT, which is his passion and idea of multiculturalism. In this job Lopez provided aid to the Palestinians, with a least 1,500 medical treatments a week. Lopez was shocked to meet this Arab minority for the first time.
He is now a director of the Latin American department of StandWithUs, which is an international, non-profit Israel education organization. For more information regarding this program and what Lopez promotes, visit the StandWithUs website.
Featured image by Joyana Richer.