Historic Sites...
Golden Gate

Hecht Synagogue is located at the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Humanities. Opened in 1981, it’s a small building, integrated into the faculty and provides a panoramic view of the Old City and Temple Mount. It was designed by architect Rami Karmi in the minimalistic fashion and is made of Jerusalem stone and white plaster on the inside. Synagogue is named after family of U.S. Senator Jacob Chic Hecht, who was the major contributor to the project.  



Mount Scopus

On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; All day and all night they will never keep silent. ISAIAH (62:6-7)

Mount Scopus, Har Hatsofim in Hebrew, translated as the Mount of the Watchmen, is a natural elevation of 2700 feet over the sea level. It is located in northeast Jerusalem, overlooking the Temple Mount, the new City and the Judean desert. On the clear day a visitor can see as far as Dead sea.

Mount Scopus is mentioned by ancient historian Josephus Flavious in his famous work The Jewish War. It describes the arrival of the Roman general Titus to the gates of Jerusalem. The first time Titus saw Jerusalem was from the Mount Scopus.

He marched there from Caesarea with two of his legions and immediately began setting up a camp. Mount Scopus offered a panoramic view of Jerusalem and provided Titus with a great vantage point to plan a siege of the walled city.

According to Josephus, Titus "ordered leveling of gardens, plantations of the suburbs, flattening the space from Scopus almost to the city walls." After the long siege, Romans burned down the Temple, looted all its treasures, killed thousands of Jews and exiled the survivors.

In 636CE, the conquering Arab armies besieged Jerusalem but were not in the position to penetrate the city walls. After six months Bysantine Patriarch Sophronius agreed to surrender the city and pay tax of submission, but only if the safety of Jerusalemites was personally guaranteed by Caliph Omar, Commander of the Believers.

Omar traveled all the way from Mecca to Jerusalem to meet the Patriarch. The first time Omar laid his eyes on the Holy City was from the Mount of Scopus. The legend has it that he prayed, changed his clothes and rode the white camel into the city to meet the Sophronius.

During his short stay in Jerusalem, Omar ordered to clean up the Temple Mount as it was used as a garbage dump by Byzantine authorities. He also permitted the Jews to worship there.

In 1902 a wealthy English lawyer, sir John Gray Hill and his wive began building their dream house with a spectacular view on a Mount Scopus property they purchased years earlier. During construction of the house workers unearthed an ancient burial cave from the Second Temple period, which still contained ornate ossuaries with bones and jewelry.

One of the ossuaries had a clear inscription in Greek: "Bones of the family of Nicanor the Alexandrian who made the gates". Nicanor was a wealthy Jewish trader who traveled to Alexandria to procure a couple of bronze gates for the Second Temple. According to the Talmud, during his voyage, Nicanor and the gates miraculously survived a deadly storm. The huge gates were eventually successfully installed on the Western side of the temple.

In 1914, Dr. Arthur Ruppin of World Zionist Organization purchased the estate of John Gray Hill. A newly acquired property was added to previously purchased land on the Mount Scopus and became a foundation for the Hebrew University. It was the first institution of higher education built by Jews in Israel during the modern times.

Mount Scopus Picture by Amos Ben Gershom

    Mount Scopus, Jerusalem. Picture By Amos Ben Gershom. National Photo Collection, Israel.

On July 24th, 1918, General Allenby and Chaim Weizmann drove to Mount Scopus, where in the presence of Jerusalem's mufti, Anglican bishop, couple of rabbis and six thousand guests 12 foundation stones were laid down for the Hebrew University. Those foundation stones represented the 12 tribes of Israel.

The Hatikva and God Save the King were sung by the attendees. Later Weizmann wrote how "We stood silent, with bowed heads, round the little row of stones, while the twilight deepened into the night". While it was a special moment for the Jews, they could hear the explosions from far off, a reminder that a long road to the statehood was just beginning.

In February 1923, Albert Einstein visited Mount Scopus to promote the establishment of the Hebrew University. The famous physician gave a lecture on the theory of relativity. It was a first lecture delivered on the premises of fledgling institution. Enstein did not speak Hebrew or English and ended up lecturing in French.

On April 1st, 1925 Hebrew University was officially ready for classes. Initially, only chemistry, microbiology and Jewish studies were available to students. The opening ceremony was attended by 5000 spectators in what is now Rothberg Amphitheater. Herbert Samuel, the High Commissioner for Palestine, and Sir Arthur Balfour attended. It was a very emotional moment for the man who played such a big role in the rebirth of the Jewish homeland. Both men along with Chaim Weitzman and chief rabbi Abraham Cook were the ditinglished speakers.

In 1926 a Nicanor's Cave has become a part of a botanical garden that was founded on the grounds of Hebrew University by Professor Otto Verburg and Professor Alexander Aig. The purpose for creating a garden was to preserve and display the historical plant life of Israel. In 1932 the actual planting of the garden began and today it covers 6 acres and contains the samples of 950 plant species. The combination of plants native to the land and ancient burial caves fits perfectly into Jerusalem's unique landscape.

British cemetery at the Mount Scopus is a burial ground for British soldiers fallen during World War I. It was unveiled by General Allenby on May 7, 1927. Most of the tombstones are decorated with crosses, but there are twenty four tombstones decorated with the star of David for the Jewish soldiers who fought under the British flag. Engraving on one of the largest memorial stones says: "His last message. No more wars for me".

In 1934, the cornerstone was laid for university affiliated hospital at Mount Scopus. It was sponsored by the Hadassah Women's Zionist Organization of America. The Hadassa organization was founded in New York in 1912 by a group of women led by Henrietta Szold. After a visit to Israel, she devoted herself to the advancement of medical care in Israel. In 1945, the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Medicine was opened.

Another visible building to the south of Hadassah hospital is an Augusta Victoria hospital with it's tower dominating the skyline. It was built in 1898 by German Kaiser Wilhelm II and was named after his wife. The structure was originally intended to be used as a hostel for visiting pilgrims. After the British were given a mandate over Palestine it was used as a residence for High Commissioner until the 1927 earthquake. It was then rebuilt as a hospital.

Diring 1930's Hebrew University added several new departments. Word about the first Jewish university in the Holy Land spread around attracting many young Jews from Europe. After the end of World War II, there was a great influx of European Jews that contributed to the rapid growth of the university.

Hebrew University Picture by Moshe Milner

       Hebrew University, Jerusalem. Picture By Moshe Milner. National Photo Collection, Israel.

By 1948 while Jews were seeking independence, Mount Scopus has become a very dangerous place for visitors. The only road to the mount passed through the hostile territory where Arab snipers constantly were harassing passing vehicles despite the presence of British military units whose job was to keep the peace.

Heavily armored buses and ambulances covered with metal sheeting were commonly used to commute to the Mount Scopus. For additional security they usually traveled in convoys accompanied by the armed Hagganah guards.

On April 14th, 1948, a convoy of ambulances and food trucks passing through Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, was ambushed by the armed Arab militias, numbering in the hundreds. Heavely outgunned medical convoy had no chance. Despite the calls for help, the British soldiers stationed nearby passively watched the unfolding slaughter without getting involved.

By the time they finally intervened seventy seven people, mostly doctors, nurses and students, were already killed. The militiamen took the pictures of the mutilated bodies which later were sold as the postcards to the Arab population of Jerusalem.

On May 14th, 1948 Jews declared an independence and creation of the State of Israel. As the War of Independence unfolded, the Jordanian forces tried to advance into Mount Scopus. When the Jordanian column of military vehicles approched the mountain, the Jewish defenders fired an antitank round at the lead vehicle and set in on fire. Since there was only one road leading to the Israeli positions, the rest of the Jordanian column turned around and fled.

In April of 1949, UN has arranged a truce between Israel and Jordan known as Armistice agreement. As a result, Jerusalem was officially partitioned along the Western Wall of the Old City with a streach of the deserted territory named a No-Man's Land separating two sides.

Tensions remained along the separation line where each side put up a barbed wire fence and minefields to protect their defensive positions. Snipers on the both sides made sure that nobody violated the neutrality of the No-Man's Land.

Under the terms of the agreement, Jordan kept the control of East Jerusalem, the Old CIty with the Temple Mount and the West Bank while Israel ended up with more modern West Jerusalem and isolated portion of land on the Mount Scopus. Even though the Jordanians agreed to allow access to the university and the hospital they routinely violated their obligations.

Mount Scopus has become a sole Jewish enclave cut off from the rest of the country and surrounded by the Jordanian forces. Between 1949 and 1967, the Hadassah hospital and the Hebrew University were closed as operating them under those conditions just was not possible. Only of 120 IDF personnel remained on the mount.

In 1967, after the victorious Six Day War, Jerusalem's Old City has fallen under Israeli control. Israelis now had unobstructed access to Mount Scopus. On July 9th the memorial ceremony was held at Hebrew University amphitheater. Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek, sponsored a concert which he described as "the cultural opening of the united city of Jerusalem".

Among those in attendance were Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and many soldiers who had been wounded in the war. Leonard Bernstein conducted a concert with Israel Philarmonic Orchestra while Isaak Stern performed Mendelson's Violin Concerto.

Israelis immediately began rebuilding the damaged structures, but it took years before university and hospital became operational. Hadassah hospital was reopened in 1975. Today with over 300 beds and 30 departments and clinics, the hospital serves thousands of both Jewish and Arab populations of Jerusalem without distinction.

The reconstruction of the Hebrew University campus took much longer. It was finally completed in 1981. The new facilities house numerous departments and besides providing high quality of education also produced nine Noble Prize winners.

Unfortunately the Arabs living in the area still show hatred towards the Jews just as they did almost hundred years ago. Rock throwing and student harassment by the local Arab youths is not uncommon. Recently Israeli authorities have increased security presence on the campus as a result of student complaints.