Although students often dread Mondays, they can turn out to be sunny and exciting if they’re filled with the right people.
This past Monday, I had the pleasure of interviewing the president-elect of Bruins for Israel, Omer Hit, a third-year neuroscience major and theater minor. We met at Kerkhoff patio and, like any successful leader, Mr. President-elect was right on time, approaching me with a bright smile and holding out his hand for a friendly, yet professional, handshake. Unlike most interviews, my meeting with Hit was far from formal. In fact, filled with humor and storytelling, this “interview” felt a lot more like an open conversation. I could see firsthand what he meant when he shared that one of his favorite pastimes is meeting new people and chatting with them about their interests.
From Sunnyvale to UCLA
Growing up in a predominantly Israeli community in northern California, Hit was, for the most part, surrounded by a culture he was familiar with and by people with whom he shared similar views. “I was not politically active and did not see controversy in supporting Israel in my hometown,” he explained.
Still, having been a counselor in Tzofim (Israel Scouts), Hit’s interest in leading pro-Israel organizations started early. His experience in teaching his community about the traditional and cultural values of Israel shaped his leadership skills, which came in handy when he arrived at UCLA.
Hit explained that when he left his strong Israeli community and came to the diverse UCLA campus, he was exposed to ideas and perspectives extremely different from his own. For the first time, he said, he saw the effects of unaware people falling victim to misinformation on different maters relating to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the issues between the two nations. Hit saw that because some perspectives are more vocally and frequently expressed than others, the UCLA community often find credibility in the misinformation. This spread of misinformation prompted Hit to be an active leader in BFI who strives to advocate for and educate the community about Israel and its contribution to the world.
Since his freshman year, Hit has been a member of and active participant in BFI. “It was natural for me to be a part of a pro-Israel organization because it was what I stood for even before UCLA,” said Hit about his immediate interest in joining the pro-Israel organization.
But that’s definitely not where it ends. Hit is a Renaissance man, involved in various extracurricular activities both on and off the UCLA campus that let him express his whole self.
As a theater minor, Hit has exercised his passion for performing arts and acting through his involvement with the Hooligan Theater Company here at UCLA. A member since his freshman year, he is very invested in the company and shared that through “participating in different companies, groups and organizations that celebrate aspects of [his] personality, [he] is sharing who [he] is with the [UCLA] community.”
Spanning beyond his involvement in performing arts, Hit is also a UCLA Tour Guide and has been since his first year. This might explain why he seems to know almost everyone on campus and has such a welcoming and friendly demeanor. As a campus tour guide, Hit has the chance to meet incoming Bruins and see what they hope to get out of their UCLA experience. As someone involved in various campus organizations, he knows exactly how to cater to the new students’ interests, no matter how diverse they may be.
In case you didn’t think Hit was involved in enough, he takes his participation in pro-Israel advocacy a step further by working with the Los Angeles Jewish Federation as an ambassador between the UCLA campus and the greater Jewish community of Los Angeles. “There is a miscommunication between what happens on campus and [what] the community [sees], and I want to inform the Jewish Federation of BFI’s methods and our plans for addressing anti-Semitism on our campus,” he said.
Plans for Next Year
As for what’s to come during Hit’s presidency, he stressed three specific actions he wants to see the Jewish and Bruin pro-Israel communities carry out in the upcoming year.
Firstly, Hit plans to “foster a fun and welcoming community where people don’t need to question their allegiance to Israel because of their religion.” Bruins for Israel is not exclusive to Jewish Bruins but is rather open to all Bruins. The organization is meant for all students at UCLA who want to learn more about how they can be a part of campus advocacy for Israel. Many people don’t know anything about Israel and have thus developed oversimplified opinions that may not represent the complexity of the issues. BFI provides a way of educating students about Israel, the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the contributions Israel provides to the international community.
This past spring break, Hit was able to travel with about 20 other students, both Jewish and non-Jewish, to Israel on a pilot program through Hillel at UCLA called Fact Finders. “The program’s premise was to take non-Jewish student leaders to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, showing them the complicated narratives on both sides and coming together to work towards self-determination,” said Hit.
The program, which was sponsored by the Jewish Federation, was a memorable educational experience for the student leaders and gave them great insight into the current issues between Israel and its neighbors. In the next year, Hit plans to organize more programs and trips that would provide student leaders with a deeper, more nuanced understanding of Israel.
Secondly, Hit emphasized the importance of coalition-building and fundraising for different causes. By branching out, he plans to strengthen bonds between BFI and other organizations on campus that share common goals, thus uniting people who stand for similar causes. The Ethiopian National Project is just one of the UCLA groups Hit has begun working with, which works to foster a thriving Ethiopian community within Israeli society.
Thirdly, Hit hopes to maintain a community that allows for the sharing of different perspectives within the pro-Israel and Jewish communities. “We cannot have a fragmented Jewish community, “ he said, underscoring the need for an open forum that allows all to respectfully share their opinions, using their differences as methods of collaboration. It is true that pro-Israel students argue on the right and left, but they also share core values for Israeli society and politics that unite both sides of the political spectrum.
As for the cultural aspects of BFI, Hit has big plans for how students at UCLA celebrate Jewish holidays. Bringing some of his Israeli culture and traditions from Sunnyvale to the UCLA campus, Hit wants to see Bruins for Israel throw huge celebrations for all the Jewish holidays that bring the community together, providing students with a fun way to celebrate their religion and culture. He discussed the successful Purim festival Hillel at UCLA organized this past winter quarter, and followed up by accentuating the importance of these events to foster a united Jewish community.
Of course, I was deeply invested in the interview, but like they say, all good things must come to an end. Throughout our meeting, Hit’s passion for Israel and Israeli culture radiated through his speech. With a devoted and well-acquainted president, I am definitely looking forward to BFI’s upcoming year and the positive contributions Hit has in store for the pro-Israel community at UCLA.