Photo courtesy of Amit David
With the start of another academic year, new faces emerge in the UCLA Jewish community — students, professors, leaders and everything in between. They come from near and far, and in Amit David’s case, very far.
A new Bruin and new to America, David was born and raised in the coastal city of Herzliya, Israel. She left her family, friends and country behind to invigorate the Jewish community of UCLA with Israeli culture and sentiments. David is the Israel Fellow at UCLA Hillel.
David’s deep commitment to her country is seen in her three and a half years serving in an intelligence unit for the Israeli air force, where she was the head of a research team that compiled information about Israel’s surrounding countries. She served an extra year and a half to gain the title of officer, and remains a captain in Israel’s Reserve Forces. She is unsure whether Israel, in a state of war, would call her back to serve.
“When there is a war in Israel, there is also a war on campus,” David said.
She said that while there are many reserve members like her in Israel, there is only one Israel Fellow at UCLA to fight that “battle with us on our front”.
David and about 50 other Israelis are positioned all over the country at different universities as Israel Fellows. The program is organized through the Jewish Agency for Israel, and gives fellows a choice of doing one-, two- or three-year terms.
“I didn’t move here permanently. I moved here because I love Israel and I feel like people should know my country… [they should] should have the opportunity to touch my country in their own way,” David said. David and the other fellows flew from Israel on the same day and will fly back on the same day once their commitment has been fulfilled.
“There is no job description that is similar between all of us because it depends on the [particular conditions of each] campus,” David said.
The job description is tailored to the needs of each campus. One campus may benefit more from strong Israel advocacy and diplomacy, while another may benefit more from an infusion of Israeli culture.
Although it is only David’s fourth week on campus, she said she is surprised how calm things have been in terms of a need for Israel advocacy.
David said she hopes to focus less on the conflict that separates us and more on the culture that unites us.
With the inherent struggle of moving across the world, a task like this is often easier said than done. However, David’s adjustment to Los Angeles life has been “way easier than expected.”
“It is not a cliche, Hillel is really a home,” she said. “I can see it with the students and I can see it with me. My coworkers are my friends and this office is the best place to hang out.”
Contrary to what she was trained for by the Jewish Agency, namely that university campuses are anti-Semitic, she did not expect the “UCLA Jewish community [to be] so big and strong and … such an Israel-loving community … people give all of their time to organize Israel events and be on social media for Israel.”