A timely awakening

Hitorerut founder Ofer Berkovitch and his party have the interests of the city's younger generation at heart.

ofer 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy )
ofer 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy )
Hitorerut councilor Ofer Berkovitch may be only 26 years old, but public affairs is nothing new for him. Raised by an attorney and well-known figure in political circles and a mother in charge of senior issues at the municipality, he says: "I couldn't help but grow up involved in local and social issues." After being involved at different stages - from organizing parties for young people like himself, including creating the first high-school radio station - he realized that what he was doing was not enough to effect real change. "I understood that this could be achieved only through politics - and that's how the idea to run for the city council was born," he says. Berkovitch was born and raised in Jerusalem. His entire family, including his parents, who recently moved to Mevaseret, are "true and dedicated Yerushalmim." Berkovitch grew up in Kiryat Hayovel and was, since his early childhood, a very active member of the Scouts youth movement. In high school he was active in the Ziv organization (in Beit Hakerem) to help improve the quality of youth leisure activities. "Besides my involvement in the Scouts, I organized parties for my friends and the young people in Jerusalem at venues such as Ha'oman 17. I wanted to prove that there is something to do here for young people, that life can be interesting and attractive for people of my generation." His military service started out in the prestigious pilots' training course. Although he soon dropped out of the program, he remained in the Air Force for what he describes as a "very meaningful" six-year stint. Despite his demanding role in the army, Berkovitch says that he continued to be involved in improving and increasing the opportunities for the young generation. He adds that the thought of leaving Jerusalem never crossed his mind. "During all those years of my army duty, I had many opportunities to talk with my friends about our future in Jerusalem. Most of our conversations centered around the issue of our future as young secular residents of this city that we love so much. We were all aware of the difficulties, but none of us wanted to give up. It became clear to me and a group of close friends that something had to be done. We realized that the imminent municipal elections could be the best answer." Berkovitch says it was evident that the social activity among their own generation was not enough anymore, that something else had to be done to ensure a future for young people in the city. "And that's how we came up with the idea of running for the city council which, against all odds, ended up with quite an impressive result." Today, the movement created by Berkovitch and his friends is very active. "Hitorerut ["Awakening"] has created a new attitude. We have various committees, headed by activists of the movement, who work on different issues that are important to us, such as affordable housing, public transportation, cultural life, all within the perspective of the young generation's needs. For example, we organized a culinary event at the Mahaneh Yehuda market, which was a great success. Again, with simple means we proved that this city has a lot to offer, and we have more projects in the works." At the moment, Berkovitch and his friends - with the support of his No. 2 on the list, Meirav Cohen - are preparing for the elections of the students' association. "The situation has indeed improved over the past few years since New Spirit (created by Mayor Barkat) took over, but there are still many things we want to improve and change. After all, Hitorerut is the largest youth movement in this city, and we have something to say." With some 100 registered active members and supported by, according to Berkovitch, "a few thousand people," the leaders of the movement are convinced that "what we have achieved up to now is just the beginning, since what we need to do is not just add to the list of events here but to create a real infrastructure for an active cultural life in the city." Berkovitch is in charge of youth issues on the city council and, as such, covers the social affairs department and the youth and sports department. He also stands in when necessary on the culture portfolio for deputy mayor Pepe Allalu (Meretz). "I have a lot to say and contribute to cultural issues, and I believe we are on the right track, even though it will still take time and money to achieve what we plan." Berkovitch also heads the youth committee which, under his leadership, held its first session in many years.