Culture in Jerusalem during the British Mandate Period


The University From its inception , Zionism was occupied with the issue of the establishment of a university . The religious opposed this , on the grounds that the Zionist movement should not be concerned with cultural matters . Some in the labor movement regarded the encouragement of higher education as diverting young people from the central goal : the return to working the land . The Zionist movement rejected the objections from both sides . Chaim Weizmann , who since 1901 had spearheaded the drive to establish a university , believed that it would be a magnet for young Jews , who were excluded from many of the world’s universities due to the restrictions of the numerus clausus . When he was in Eretz Israel in 1918 , as the head of Zionist Commission , he felt that the establishment of a university was the most important political act that he could do , now that Jerusalem had been conquered by the British . He understood that the British would not grant demands connected with the symbols of Jewish sovereignty , but could sanction the establishment of a university . The cornerstone of the university was laid in July 1918 , when Turkish and German forces still occupied the northern part of Eretz Israel . The area that had been purchased for the establishment of the university , on Mount Scopus , was decorated with carpets bearing Hebrew art from Bezalel . Candies , manufactured in Jaffa and bearing the inscription “ For instruction shall come forth from Zion ” ( Isaiah 2 : 3 ; Micah 4 : 2 ) , were distributed to those who attended the ceremony . The construction of a quasi-altar , made of twelve stones , was planned . Each organization was to bring a stone ; political considerations led to the number being raised to fourteen . A few rabbis and the Mufti of Jerusalem took part in the ceremony , but the Jerusalem rabbis were noticeable by their absence . In his speech , Lord Balfour promised that the city’s culture , as the city of all the religions , would be strengthened . All of the foundations of the Jerusalem culture that would develop under the British Mandate were evident at the ceremony . Anyone who thought that the cornerstone ceremony would soon be followed by the university were wrong . The Hebrew University was only inaugurated in 1925 , at an impressive ceremony , with speeches by Chaim Weizmann , Lord Balfour , the High Commissioner Herbert Samuel , and Hayyim Nahman Bialik , and with a large audience in attendance . General Allenby , Ahad Ha-Am , and Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook were in attendance , as well as representatives from Jewish communities around the world . As the University took its first steps , it already had an extremely valuable national library , under the direction of the future professors Samuel Hugo Bergman and Gershom Scholem , who felt that they were fulfilling a national cultural mission of the highest order . The establishment of the University was meant to be based on a Zionist vision : Jerusalem as a university city , a new cultural response to the rituals of the past , a supreme academy for the humanities , founded on both scientific principles and the prophetic vision of “ a light to the nations . ” Judah Magnes , who became chancellor of the Hebrew University , was an American Jew who was well connected to the non-Zionist American Jewish philanthropic establishment , but distant from Eastern and Central European Zionists . He was both an idealist and an authoritarian , and loathed conventional politics . He believed in nonpolitical Zionism , and in the building of Eretz Israel as a center for progress and morality , one that could inspire all Jews , even in those lands that had become a home for Jews , such as the United States . He represented Jewish-American wealth , and sought to influence Zionist politics by force of his position , and through the large sums of money that he was instrumental in bringing to Eretz Israel . He was not a political Zionist leader for European Jews who sought a home , such as Chaim Weizmann . Magnes believed in the creation of culture over the course of time , while Weizmann viewed culture as the sustenance that was urgently needed for uprooted Jewish souls . Each wanted to fashion the Hebrew University in his own spirit . Eventually , the friction between them resulted

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