The Hebrew University

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, founded in 1918 and opened officially in 1925, is Israel’s premier university as well as its leading research institution. The Hebrew University is ranked internationally among the 100 leading universities in the world and first among Israeli universities.

The recognition the Hebrew University has attained confirms its reputation for excellence and its leading role in the scientific community. It stresses excellence and offers a wide array of study opportunities in the humanities, social sciences, exact sciences and medicine. The university encourages multi-disciplinary activities in Israel and overseas and serves as a bridge between academic research and its social and industrial applications.

An expression of the University’s high level and quality of its research can be seen in the top prizes and awards won by its researchers, capped by 8 Nobel Prizes and the Fields Medal in Mathematics won by graduates and staff members of the University (as of 2012).

The Hebrew University has set as its goals the training of public, scientific, educational and professional leadership; the preservation of and research into Jewish, cultural, spiritual and intellectual traditions; and the expansion of the boundaries of knowledge for the benefit of all humanity.

There are 7 faculties in the University and 14 schools. There are about 1,000 staff members and 23,000 students. The University has close to 100 research centers in which some 4,000 research programs are carried out in all areas of human knowledge.

Yissum – the technology transfer company of the University founded in 1964 – has registered more than 7,000 patents on more than 2,000 inventions by researchers of the University. About third of the patents have been applied to commericial use in products that sell for over 2 billion dollars a year.

Brief history of the University:

The impetus to establish an institution of higher learning in the land of Israel arose in the latter part of the 19th century, preceding the birth of the Zionist movement. Various ideas were put forth at the time, some of which fell by the wayside, but others of which were realized at a later point in time.

Chaim Weizmann, Martin Buber and Berthold Feivel published a pamphlet in 1902 entitled Eine Judische Hochschule, which put forth the principles for organizing a university of the Jewish people.

In 1913, the 11th World Zionist Congress decided to establish a University in Jerusalem, whose language of instruction would be Hebrew. On July 24, 1918, not long after the end of World War I, the World Zionist Organization received permission from the British to lay the cornerstone for the university. The ceremony was held at the Gray Hill Estate on Mt. Scopus. Thousands of people came from Israel and abroad, Jews and non-Jews, to attend the memorable ceremony.

In 1923, Nobel Laureate Albert Einstein visited the land of Israel. An enthusiastic backer of the idea of establishing a university in the land of Israel, he came to Mt. Scopus and delivered a lecture on the theory of relativity – the first scientific lecture to be delivered at the nascent university.

The university was formally opened in a historic ceremony on April 1, 1925, in what is now the Rothberg Amphitheater, in the presence of leaders of the Jewish community, as well as representatives from world Jewry and from universities around the world. Among the speakers were Lord Balfour, Sir Herbert Samuel, Dr. Chaim Weizmann, Chief Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Hacohen Kook and Haim Nahman Bialik.

With the end of World War II, the struggle began for Israel’s independence. The road to the Mt. Scopus campus went through Arab areas, and the convoys that came up to the mount were an easy target for Arab snipers. As a result, In January 1948, studies were discontinued on the campus, and on April 13, 1948, a convoy of personnel from Hadassah Hospital and the university was attacked in an ambush in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. British soldiers who witnessed the slaughter prevented Haganah defenders from reaching the site in order to assist those being attacked. After several hours, 78 people in the convoy lay dead. From that point on, Mt. Scopus was cut off from Jerusalem and the university’s campus became an Israeli enclave within the territory controlled by Jordan.

In August 1948, the provisionary Israeli government headed by David Ben-Gurion dedicated a special session to the Hebrew University. In a letter sent by Ben-Gurion to the directorate of the university, he urged the university to continue serving in Jerusalem as “the central scientific institution of the State of Israel,” and called upon the Jews of the world to assist the university in fulfilling that task.

In the spring of 1949, following the signing of an Israeli-Arab cease-fire, studies were resumed – far from Mt. Scopus. Even though the Jordanians had agreed to allow access to Mt. Scopus, they violated the agreement and blocked that access. The university had to find a temporary home in various buildings in Jerusalem.

The university wanted to concentrate all of its activities in one place, and therefore sought to find a suitable location in Jerusalem or its environs. The offers it received from the government were not deemed satisfactory, and so the university embarked on its own concerted effort to find a proper location. This effort bore fruit when the government decided to allocate a section of the government quarter for the use of the university. The cornerstone for the new campus was laid on a barren hill between the neighborhoods of Rehavia and Beit Hakerem known as Givat Ram (later to become the Edmond J. Safra campus). Construction of the new campus began in 1954.

In 1958, the new campus was dedicated at Givat Ram, becoming part of the ten-year anniversary celebrations of the State of Israel. The campus became a focus for intellectual stimulation, and the expanding number of students brought to Jerusalem a night life that it had never before known.

In the Six Day War, on June 7, 1967, the Old City of Jerusalem was liberated, and the city was reunited. Efforts to return the university to Mt. Scopus began immediately, but the full restoration and building of the old/new campus took many years.

Just days after the end of the Six-Day War, the Senate of the university decided to award the honorary doctor of philosophy degree to the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, Yitzhak Rabin, in recognition of his and his staff’s courageous efforts in rescuing Israel from great danger, in reuniting Jerusalem, and for enabling the return of the university to Mt. Scopus. Eventually, in 1981, the renewed campus on Mt. Scopus was dedicated.

In 2000, the university marked 75 years of its existence. The central role of the university in serving as a key factor in determining the nature of Israeli society has continued into the 21st century. The contributions of the university are felt not only in the overall intellectual life of the community but also specifically in research, in teaching and in applied science.

The stamp was issued in 1975 to commemorate 50 years to the University. Designer: A. Kalderon.