Just minutes before Emanuele and I spoke, three terrorists stormed the Charlie Hebdo headquarters in downtown Paris and fatally shot 12 people.
“Europe is asleep” commented Emanuele. “And once it will finally wake up, it will realize the enormity of this phenomenon.”
Emanuele Boccia, 22 years old, was born and raised in Milan, Italy, and is currently finishing his undergraduate studies in Political Science and Criminology at the University of Manchester.
“I’ve always been interested in foreign affairs. The more I study these subjects, the more I enjoy them,” he said, adding that he is mostly fascinated by terrorism studies. Emanuele also interned at the Israeli Chamber of Commerce and represented the Jewish students at the UN. “I’d love to do research about the Arab countries, the media, with a focus on their relationship with Israel.”
After graduating from the Jewish high school in Milan, Emanuele spent one year volunteering in Israel and has then decided to continue his studies abroad. He spent weeks changing his mind, undecided whether to move to the UK or to the States. In the end, he managed to do both – enrolling in the University of Manchester and spending one semester at University of Massachusetts.
“In Manchester I found a very stimulating environment; it’s probably the city with the highest student population in Europe. The nightlife is outstanding and life is very cheap, as well.” The city is just a few hours away from London, one of the most expensive cities in the world: “A ride on the tube there costs 5 or 6 pounds – that’s what I spend in two or three days in Manchester!”
In the States, Emanuele was positively impressed by the people’s openness, especially towards foreign students. Moreover, “there are Jews everywhere, in America… it’s so different from Europe.” However, he immediately noticed that in the US there is a much larger spectrum of Jewish affiliations.
The Jewish life on campus is one of the most important elements of Emanuele’s university experience. Though the local Hillel center closed down one year after his arrival in Manchester, he joined the Jewish Society and also co-founded the local chapter of the historical Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi. “We’re following the American model – we organize nights out, Shabbos dinners, and charity events.”
Being Jewish on campus is not a problem, said Emanuele. Troubles, however, may spark as soon as the word “Israel” comes along.
“Everything related to Israel is boycotted on campus. The university is twinned with a Palestinian university known to support Hamas.” And that is considered normal, whereas reputable Israeli universities are disregarded and slandered.
Emanuele plans on remaining in the UK after he graduates this year. He dreams of moving to London, and ruled out a return to his homeland. “I love visiting my family and friends in Italy.” He misses the good weather, the mountains, and – of course – the food. “However, I need to live in a stimulating, fast-paced place, and Italy is in a chronic hibernation mode.”
Speaking of countries that are unaware of the current situations, Emanuele terminates our chat expressing his deep concern for France, Europe, and its liberties.
“Europe needs to change its strategy and become more aware of the perils is facing. Most of all, we need to adopt new and effective security measures – the threat doesn’t come from the outside anymore. It comes from the inside, too.”
*Simone Somekh is a student at Bar-Ilan University, Israel, and works as a freelance writer. Shirly Piperno, fashion styling and communication student at Istituto Marangoni, London, contributed reporting.