Hillel is leading a cultural shift on campus against a tide of anti-Israel activism, which often leads to expressions of antisemitic sentiment. Hillel’s Jewish Agency Israel Fellows at UC San Diego and SDSU spend every day on campus working with Jewish students and other leaders from diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds to promote Israel awareness and engage them in learning about Israel. Through education and coalition-building, Hillel is changing the climate.

One of the most impactful programs in recent years has been Hillel’s Fact Finders trips.

The Fact Finders program takes prominent student leaders of all religious and ethnic backgrounds from student government and multicultural clubs at SDSU and UC San Diego along with Jewish student leaders on a trip through Israel and the West Bank to witness and learn from the interpersonal, cultural, political and religious factors involved in the regional conflict. The goal of this fully-funded trip is to help key campus influencers develop their own perspective of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, informed by first-hand experiences.

The leaders on campus are often lobbied to support anti-Israel positions through  without fully understanding the issues they are being asked to support. Through an intensive experience in the region with the opportunity to ask any questions they want, they come back well-informed, more capable and more confident to contend with these sensitive political issues with the nuance they deserve.

This was Hillel’s fourth time facilitating a Fact Finders trip with SDSU and the second time with UCSD.

“Going to Israel with Hillel to explore the Israel-Palestine conflict was a very organized, spirited, and enlightening trip. Although it was heavy on the Israeli narrative, I truly appreciated the moments we had with our Palestinian speakers and the opportunity to see ground zero within the West Bank. As someone that was already aware about the region’s politics and history, I was able to understand more deeply the nuances of the region that truly cannot be captured in news articles or textbooks. This trip allowed me to emotionally dissect the aspects of both the Israeli and Palestinian identities when it comes to minute differences of citizenship, residence, faith, occupation, education, and politics. This was possible through the various guest speakers organized within the trip. It is truly rare to achieve such levels of cognitive dissonance and still have a tremendously enriching trip – Thank you, Hillel San Diego.” Ashkan (UCSD ’21)

“Visiting Jerusalem and the Holocaust Museum was probably the most meaningful part of the trip for me. The Holocaust Museum was so emotionally intense, and Jerusalem has such an ancient spiritual feeling that seemed to bring out something deeper in all of us. Both of those places taught us a lot, and experiencing it together brought us a lot closer as a group.” Alison (SDSU ’21)

Additionally, the Israel Fellows work with students to explore the cultural dimensions of Israel through creative programs like UCSD’s eight-week series called Israeli Faces. Israel Fellow, Shir Azaria, leads each week’s session featuring a different dimension of Israeli society. Shir has brought in many amazing speakers and artists from Israel to teach this group of 20 students.