7. The Hebrew University: Jerusalem 1957-1962
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C H A P T E R S E V E N The Hebrew University: Jerusalem 1957-1962 The Hebrew University may fill the part in the restoredJewish nation, which the Templefilledin the Second Commonwealth of the Maccabees. . . . There is something in the atmosphere of Jerusalem which makes man dream, and see visions of a better and peaceful humanity. —Norman Bentwichλ ISRAEL: T H E POLITICAL BACKGROUND The Israel of 1957 was not the Palestine that Robinson had known as a boy in the 1930s. The crucial moment for Eretz-Israel had come in No­ vember of 1947, when the United Nations adopted its historic resolu­ tion in favor of establishing aJewish State in Palestine. Only a few months later, on May 14, 1948, the British gave up control and withdrew from the country.2 Meanwhile, without the British, full-scale conflict erupted between Jews and Arabs. The War of Independence that began on May 15 found the new country in a seemingly defenseless position, threatened by five hostile armies converging on Israel—the Lebanese from the north, the Syrians from the northeast, the Iraqis and Transjordanians from the east, and the Egyptians from the south. The army of Transjordan at­ tacked Jerusalem directly on May 15, and the key sector of Sheikh Jarrah was captured shortly thereafter. This in turn cut off Mount Scopus, including the Hebrew University and the Hadassah Hospital, from the rest of the modern Jewish city. With a combination of "tenacity, boldness, improvisation, and luck," the Israelis managed to withstand the initial phase of this assault, and were successful in blocking the main thrust of the Arab invasion. 3 In less than a month, the United Nations Security Council called for a four-week truce that began on June 11. Although the Egyptians in the south had cut off the Negev from Israel, their advance on Tel Aviv had 1 Bentwich 1961, p. 164. 2 The Hebrew University 1969, p. 7. The United Nations resolution actually estab­ lished two states, one Jewish and one Palestinian Arab, as Moshe Machover stressed in a letter to me of October 22, 1992. 3 Safran 1981. 244 — Chapter Seven failed. Despite a second outbreak of hostilities on July 9, another ceasefire ten days later led to several months of negotiations. By the time fighting began again in mid-October, only the Egyptians and Israelis were involved. The cease-fires, in fact, were not observed. The Israelis feared that the United Nations was prepared to surrender both Jerusalem and the Negev to Transjordan. By concentrating their forces largely in the south, the Israelis were eventually able to drive the Egyptians from the Negev and into the Sinai. When the British demanded that the Israelis withdraw , the Egyptians agreed to an armistice. Israel, too, decided that the moment had come to end the war—largely because signing the documents for peace would ratify Israel's sovereignty, acknowledging that it was indeed an independent state. Over the next few months Israel agreed to separate treaties with each of its Arab neighbors, thereby securing the legitimacy it had long anticipated.4 But for this it also paid a heavy price, and not only in the lives lost during the conflict itself. While the War of Independence assured the survival of Israel, it in turn created Jordan out of Transjordan, and left Egypt in control of the Gaza Strip.Jerusalem, instead of being internationalized as the UN had hoped, was instead divided between Jordan and Israel, with the Hebrew University and all of Mount Scopus cut off from the Israeli part of the city. But there was also a very strong, positive effect of the War of Independence that was largely psychological: "The experience of the war indelibly stamped a sense of unity and common destiny on the psychic fiber of all those who partook of it; and by the time it had reached its last stages, virtually every corner of the country had experienced it."5 Jerusalem, however, was another matter. The Jewish quarter of the Old City had been destroyed and its residents driven out.6 With the Arabs in control of Sheikh Jarrah, there was only one road connecting the Jewish part of the city with Mount Scopus, but this was perilous territory: The attacks on the road by Arab guerrilla fighters and Arab Legionnaires made communicating between the Hebrew University and Jewish Jerusalem impossible. On the other hand, the stout defenses maintained by the University's students and the Haganah...