People react to abuse in different ways.
Some ignore it. Some get mad.
And then there's Brian Mast's way.
He is a vet, a decorated U.S. Army Ranger from Florida, a double amputee after stepping on a mine in Afghanistan in 2010.
Back in civilian life, Mast decided to snag one honor that had eluded him—a college diploma—so took his wife and kids to Harvard University, where he's studying economics.
There he discovered a new battle.
As with so many campus in the United States, undergraduates at Harvard, in their undergraduate hunger to abolish the injustices of the world, throw themselves vigorously into ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through sheer public outcry, casting the complex, half-century old tragedy into a set piece Victorian melodrama with a mustache-twiddling villain, the Israelis, and a Little Nell victim, the Palestinians.
"Being up in Boston, no question there is a lot of anti-Israel sentiment, and protests going on around Harvard," said Mast, who stumbled upon one last year while walking with his family on Boston Commons.
"It doesn't take a genius to figure out that I'm a service member, with my Army Ranger cap and my two artificial legs," he said. "These four or five guys start saying things to me and my family. A little girl could push me over, but this is a fight I'm perfectly willing to have. I was inviting them to take me up, but in the end they left me and my family alone."
That was not the end, however. For Mast, it was a beginning.
"It was a very important reminder to me," said Mast. "I don't know why certain battles find their way into my life, but this is how fighting for Israel found its way into my life. This kind of torment goes on in Israel's neighborhood daily: Syria. Jordan. Iran. Egypt, doing this, day after day. It's a sign to me I need to stand up and show my support. This battle has come to me. I don't want to turn my back."
Over the Christmas holidays, Mast went to Israel as a volunteer.
"I couldn't have received a warmer reception," he said. "It was amazing."
Spending time in Israel cemented his feelings for the country.
"As I was over there, volunteering with immigrants, orphans, refugees from Sudan and Ethiopia, what struck me is these individuals skip over countries like Egypt to get into Israel, a country constantly under threat of attack. There must be a very good reason to skip over those countries, and it's the same reason immigrants from places like Guatemala and El Salvador skip over countries like Mexico to get into the United States, because the same freedom and opportunity offered here."
I pointed out that a lot of American Jews -- myself included --have ambivalent feelings about Israel. While we don't embrace the "Give us your country" hallucinatory rhetoric of the Palestinians, we can't ignore the fact that they are indeed there, four million of them, living constricted lives, and that the hard liners and settlers aren't helping.
Mast could understand how pro-Israel college students yield the field to Palestinian protests.
"You're facing a mob mentality, not just mob mentality from individuals, but from the people who are supposed to be your educators. It can be extremely difficult thing to face," he said. "It's a little bit different for me. I'm a 34 year old man. I spent a good amount of time being in combat. I have that advantage. I had the life experience that nobody is going to tell me what to think."
Mast is not ambivalent.
"The anti-Israel protests, I just thought, 'It's completely wrong,' I literally didn't get how any American citizens were protesting Israel defending itself,," he said. "As I see this, year after year, the Palestinians fire rockets at Israel and then go hide behind the civilian population and cry the sky is falling when Israel defends itself. It's this stupid game and it boggles me this double standard being applied."
Back in the states, he now speaks on behalf of Israel--he was in town last week speaking at the Chicago chapter of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces annual dinner.
He was surprised to hear from his fellow vets.
"Tons of my peers, fellow wounded warriors, saying, 'What are you doing in Israel? How did you get there? Can I do something similar to this?'" He said he is putting together a group of 10 to 12 fellow vets to go back and do it again.
Mast is working for the federal government, advising Homeland Security on explosives, a job he had in the Army. As a federal employee, because of the Hatch Act, he can't say he's running for Congress in Florida's 18th Congressional district until that employment ends.
Which it does on Saturday. So his ability to help Israel might only grow.