Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hebrew University

Although it's just right across the street from where we're living, I've barely set foot on the main campus of Hebrew University. This is ironic because one of my favorite things to do besides see hotels and homes is to check out universities. No matter what country or city I am in, I always try to make time for a  stop at a local school or university to get a feel for the local culture. You can tell a lot from a campus. I guess my excuse for not visiting yet is that sometimes something convenient is the thing that's most ignored. So, last week, I decided to take a little visit to the acclaimed campus across the street that has been known to attract students and professors from all over the world. HU is known internationally both for its academic rigor and its physical beauty: 




Einstein, Sinatra, Weizmann and Bialik have all been visiting professors at Hebrew University. Now it's my turn to go for a peek in person:



Students can be found relaxing between classes on the spacious green quads that make up the open spaces throughout the university:



All of the buildings on campus are built using Jerusalem stone, as is stipulated in the city laws. I find the colors very relaxing:


The building in the photo below, called the "Frank Sinatra Building", houses the university's cafeteria. Its infamous history dates back to the horrific date of July 31, 2002 when a Palestinian painter, working with Hamas, set off a bomb inside the cafeteria's walls during a busy lunch hour. The explosion killed nine innocent people and injured over 70 others. Among the victims was my childhood friend, Marla Bennett, a local congregant at San Diego's Temple Emmanuel. She was just 24 years old, studying abroad for the summer. I had visited Israel for the first time with Marla when I was a little girl on a group trip. Ironically, I can still recall with almost perfect memory her mother, who would frequently scold us for eating while lying down on the bus, saying that we could choke and die if we ate that way. A felt a personal need to go visit the spot where she died. You will have to take my word for it that the campus today is far safer than it has ever been. You can only enter the campus from a few locations, all of which have setups similar to airport security (and when I say airport security, I mean Israeli airport security, not U.S.) It is hard to believe the inhumane tragedy that once took place in this serene looking spot:


Here we are now at a beautiful lookout on campus with views of Jordan in the background. Students come out here for a breather, to smoke a cigarette or to canoodle with a significant someone. Graduation ceremonies also take place here:



We are now on the complete opposite side of campus, with a view overlooking the Dome of the Rock and the Mount of Olives:



I wanted to go see where all the students were hanging out since I didn't find that many outside. I had heard that finals were quickly approaching, so I had a hunch of where to go. As suspected, I found them all in the library:


And I even found a few of them catching a quick cat nap in the library's student lounge. Looks like these students are not much different from students back home, wouldn't you say?


In addition to what you've seen here, Hebrew University has a plethora of other spots on campus which are like any other college or university back home: restaurants, coffee shops, multiple libraries, a faculty club, a hotel for visiting professors and families, and a fully-functioning student union with a travel agency, barber shop and bank, just to name a few. What is different is that it is one of the more diverse campuses I have set foot on and you definitely feel that when you're there. It's pretty exhilarating to have so many races, religions, ethnicities and political orientations together on one single campus.

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