Home November 2011 Bringing Israel to Campus

Bringing Israel to Campus

Fall. The new school year brings a new Israel Fellow to UCI Hillel.  Cue the intro of Eran Hoch, an Israeli native who has experience in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more intimate than most people at UCI.
“What I have in store [for Hillel] isn’t important,” Hoch explained.  “I strongly believe that what the students have in store for this year is most important, and that is what will make the difference.  We have a very strong student body that is leading the Jewish and pro-Israel community on campus, and I see myself as the tool to help bring a more genuine Israel to campus.”
Born in Mazkeret Batya, Israel, Hoch moved to London for 3 years.  There he studied in a Jewish-Reform primary school.  At the age of 16 he became a member of Seeds of Peace, an international organization that promotes coexistence and friendships between young leaders from conflict regions around the world.
“Doing that for 4 years was very influential for me, and looking back, I think is what got me doing what I do today,” Hoch said.
Hoch earned his high school Israeli “Bagrut” in Arabic and chemistry.  He spent his time in the IDF serving in a unit called COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories).  COGAT was responsible for maintaining a reasonable humanitarian standard for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.  Hoch served as an operations officer in the Qalqilya branch of COGAT before leaving the army as a lieutenant to study Arabic and Middle Eastern studies at Ben Gurion University.  Upon seeing a poster on campus advertising to “Come and make a difference in Israeli advocacy and Jewish life on college campuses around the world,” Hoch immediately enrolled in the program… and now here he is, at UC Irvine.
For those unfamiliar with exactly what an Israel Fellow does for Hillel, Hoch offered a brief explanation.
“My responsibility is to bring Israel to campus, to make sure it is not misrepresented and help students connect to Israel in different ways,” Hoch said.  “It’s easy to say ‘Israel is this…’ but it is so much more than just one thing, or even two things.  Israel to me is more than a start-up nation with great hummus and a political conflict.  My job is proving it.  By doing this, I believe we will strengthen the Jewish identity of students here and help make Orange County a more welcoming place for Jewish students.
“People from outside Orange County, and even more from outside the U.S. sometimes hear bad things about UCI and being Jewish here,” Hoch continued.  “But coming here and seeing how proud the [Jewish] students are and how strong the community is – it makes me proud.”
With the recent conviction of the Muslim Student Union students who orchestrated an interruption of a speech by former Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren, tensions between the MSU and the Jewish community on campus do not appear to be settling any time soon.  Hoch, however, isn’t daunted.
“I would love to see more students taking an active part in Jewish and pro-Israel activities here,” he stated, “and also would like to see bridges built between the Muslim and Jewish communities on campus.”
While Hoch is excited to begin working with the Jewish students of UCI, he isn’t coming in with his head in the clouds.  Asked about what he thought UCI’s Jewish community could improve upon, he said, “I think we need to work on coordination with different Jewish organizations on campus.  It is something that we have always worked on and will always have more to improve on.  We are a very strong and diverse community when we are united and are weak when we are divided.”
One of the goals that Hoch and the UCI Jewish leadership have decided on together is to make Israel more “friendly” at UCI.  Their goal, Hoch said, is to show UCI that Israel is much more than a country with a complicated political situation.  They will accomplish that through building strong friendships between UCI’s Jewish community, other pro-Israel groups in Southern California and non-Jewish organizations on UCI’s campus.
Hoch’s passion for Israel and his eagerness to help UCI’s Jewish students don’t stop at his title as “Israel Fellow.”  He will, he said, be of as much help to the Jewish students in any way he can be.
“I plan to be there for the students, from helping out with Hebrew homework to brainstorming ideas for IFest,” Hoch said.  “It’s the students that I am here for, and I will do whatever I can to see that their college experience is as meaningful as possible.  It is the spirit that flows within the Hillel office; it is one of the first things I picked up from Sarah and Rebecca, my co workers.”
With the new staff members at Hillel comes the promise of new opportunities.  Hoch and his co-workers are, like their predecessors, just as if not more determined in their work to help serve Israel and the Jewish community in any way they can.
Asked if there was anything else he’d like to say, Hoch responded, “I’m starting to really like country music, and I am not afraid to say it out loud.  There, I just said it.”

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