Culture in Jerusalem during the British Mandate Period


in Weizmann building his home in Rehovot , while Magnes was pushed upstairs , from Chancellor of the University to its President . This tension , however , did not prevent the emergence of Mount Scopus as an institution in the spirit of the new Hebrew culture : a universal outlook , the search for compromise in the national conflict with the Arabs , a bastion of humanism , a place to engage in Jewish studies ; a place for both the aloof scientist and the involved student ; a place for intimate contact with the cultural tidings coming from the very capital of democratic British rule , but also with the authoritarianism of the universities of Central Europe . Collective memory closely associates the Hebrew University with Berit Shalom , which advocated a bi-national solution for the conflict between Jews and Arabs , and which began its activities in the same year that the University was founded . Berit Shalom soon numbered among its members Samuel Hugo Berman , Rabbi Binyamin ( Joshua Radler-Feldmann / Hatalmi ) , Hayyim Kolvariski , Gershom Scholem , and Ernst Simon . Magnes himself , whose views were close to those of Berit Shalom , did not join the society , but as University Chancellor he warded off any attempt to limit its activity . As time passed , the quarrel between the group and the Zionist establishment intensified ; for the latter , its views were an attack on the national consensus . In the 1930 s internal disagreements led to the group’s dissolution . In 1942 Magnes founded Ihud ( Unity ) , which was perceived as Berit Shalom’s successor , and which was joined by individuals such as Martin Buber and several past members of Berit Shalom . These groups had few participants , but the composition of their membership and the esteem in which they were held , even by their opponents , drew much public attention , both within the country and abroad . An opposing voice was also heard in the Hebrew University , from the Revisionist right . Their leading spokesman was Prof . Joseph Klausner , who headed the Hebrew Literature department at the establishment of the University . Criticism of Berit Shalom was not , however , limited to the right . Mainstream individuals such as Benzion Dinur ( Dinaburg ) , who would later serve as Education Minister , objected to the Berit Shalom approach . More militant manifestations of opposition appeared in the form of disturbances ( at times organized ) during lectures by Magnes , Bergman , and Norman Bentwich . Magnes proved to be a zealous defender of the principles of pluralism and tolerance . He allowed unrestrained debate and rejected any attempt at stifling free speech . When the Student Association leadership decided to remove Communist students from its ranks because of their views , the University administration intervened and prevented their removal . When the Mandatory authorities arrested Revisionist students without their having been charged with any illegal act , but only because they posed a “ potential danger , ” Magnes took vigorous action to obtain their release . In a Yishuv that was divided , and rife with heated disagreements and never-ending quarrels , the Hebrew University communicated a message of tolerant restraint and a democratic spirit . It nevertheless should be recalled that even at its Mandatory height , on the eve of the establishment of the State of Israel , the Hebrew University student body numbered less than one thousand , with fewer than two hundred faculty members . Intellectual life in Jerusalem was larely concentrated in the encounter between the institutions and the intellectuals connected with them . While the majority of Eretz Israel’s writers were to be found in Tel Aviv , many scholarly studies were conceived in Jerusalem . Academic journals in the field of Jewish studies were published in Jerusalem . The figure of Shmuel Yosef Agnon , who was an institution in his own right , overshadowed all the rest . The Zionist circles were not quite sure how to relate to the phenomenon of Agnon : whether to celebrate his wonderful Hebrew , to wonder at his uniquely traditional language that hinted at religiosity and its crisis - or to question the heresy and doubts that emerged from his writings .

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