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Jewish Journal

Higher Learning

by Rob Eshman

August 1, 2002 | 8:00 pm

There is a part of Mt. Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem that one rabbi there calls, "the burial area for the nation's unborn victims." There you will find the graves of women who, at nine-months pregnant, were murdered by terrorists. A husband and wife are buried side by side, killed just after they learned she was pregnant with twins. There lies the Gavish family -- a grandfather, his daughter, son-in-law and grandson. A year ago this week, five members of the Schijveschuurder family were killed in the bombing of the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem. In cemeteries throughout Israel, long graves are dug beside short ones.

Nadav Shragai, writing in Ha'aretz newspaper, commented that part of the strategy of the Palestinian terrorists seems to be to wipe out generations at once, to eradicate the old with their young. Think of the Park Hotel Passover massacre in Netanya, when, in an instant, entire families were killed. Terror 2002 is a reinvention of Terror 1802. The pogroms that instilled such fear and hopelessness among Jews in 19th century Eastern Europe have come to modern-day Israel.

It is too easy to describe Wednesday's Hebrew University bombing as senseless. Think of it instead as part of a strategy that, like the pogroms, targets a nation's future.

At press time, there are seven confirmed dead and scores more seriously wounded after a bomb went off at a crowded cafeteria on the university's Mt. Scopus campus. Hamas has claimed responsibility (see page 17).

The Hamas leaders want the world to believe that the attack at Hebrew University was retaliation for Israel's attack in Gaza City last week that killed Hamas leader Sheik Salah Shehadeh along with 14 civilians, among them nine children. Much of the outrage and criticism over Israel's actions came from within the country itself, and undoubtedly some of it emanated from professors and students of the Hebrew University.

Even in democratic Israel, Hebrew University is a beacon of tolerance and understanding. Consider its founder, American-born Rabbi Judah Magnes. In the mid-1920s, Magnes formed Brith Shalom, an intellectual society devoted to bringing about a binational state for Jews and Arabs. Among its influential members were Hebrew University professor Gershom Scholem and philosopher Martin Buber, who warned that a Jewish presence in Palestine not founded on Jewish-Arab brotherhood was, "doomed to destruction."

The university has long been a reflection of that spirit. "It's so open," said Sofia Aron, a Los Angeles native attending Hebrew University from UC Davis. "Some of the Arabs have signs in their dorm rooms [that read] 'Death to Israel,' and Israel permits it." Aron told one of our reporters shortly after the attack. "The university is a very liberal place," she said. "Why was it targeted?"

As Aron and the rest of us are beginning to understand, terror logic is not political, it's pogrom-ical. Forget about Hebrew University's liberalism (I don't have enough fingers and toes to count the Peace Now activists among its professors). Think of the Arabs who are at this point consistently murdered by their fellow Arabs in these attacks.

Arab Israelis are assumed to be among the casualties at Hebrew University. Of course Hamas expected this: 10 percent of the university's student body is of Arab descent, and the university has continued to employ numerous Arab workers. In addition, a suicide bomber at a Haifa restaurant earlier this year killed even more Arab Israelis, as have attacks on buses and bus stops.

Again, the strategy is not military to political. Arab Israelis don't fight on Israel's behalf or support the current government. But a society where Arabs and Jews work and learn alongside one another is anathema to the terrorists, and Hebrew University in many ways set an example in that regard for the rest of the nation.

Consider the recently released Arab Human Development Report 2000, produced by the United Nations and an Arab development fund. The report takes Arab nations to task for an inept, decaying system of higher education. No wonder, according to the report, 51 percent of Arab young people say they would like to leave their countries in search of greater opportunity and freedom elsewhere. (Download the report at www.undp.org/rbas/ahdr.) In the Middle East, Hebrew University is not just a haven of higher learning, but of diversity and dissent.

But again, attacking Hebrew U. is terror logic for you: If you're willing to murder your own Arab brethren, why hesitate to kill those who sympathize with their plight?

The only explanation: because they were young, because they were the future.

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