Silencing the Music of Ideas
By Richard M. Joel
Hebrew University is a wonderful place. It sits atop Mount Scopus, where thousands of students -- Jews, Christians, and Muslims -- participate in vital and vibrant campus life. Although a secure and fortified campus, it has the atmosphere of many American campuses with open spaces, meeting areas, plazas, and amphitheaters. Rigorous classes enable these thousands of students to explore ideas from many cultures and multiple disciplines. It is a place of lively debate, free expression, dance and song. It is alive and dynamic. Young minds learn; young hearts dream, hopes are born and nurtured.
We have a wonderful Hillel Foundation at Hebrew University, devoted to Jewish renaissance, as we have at hundreds of campuses worldwide. We sponsors debates, a theater ensemble, a symphony orchestra, and, oh yes, an Arab-Jewish dialogue.
On Wednesday, the sound of explosives interrupted a staff meeting at Hebrew University Hillel. My colleagues ran across the plaza and discovered a scene of nightmarish death and destruction -- and, in those first awful moments before the medics arrived, a place of utter silence. The ultimate enemy of civilization is the silence of destruction. The ultimate destruction is attacking children gathered to learn, to exchange ideas, to think, to grow. That is the anti-Israel campus activism that greeted us on Wednesday, and that is the ultimate terror: to destroy the children at their learning. Not tragic collateral damage but purposeful silencing.
This atrocity was not just about killing the Jews. It was about killing the lyric poetry of ideas -- everything a university is supposed to represent. Let's be clear: Those advocating for Palestinians have every right to advocate, to protest. And pro-Palestinian activism need not be anti-Israel activism. The campus is properly a vehicle for ideas and exchange. But when extremism and hate replace advocacy, evil reigns and civilization crumbles.
Hebrew University is a place where Jews and Muslims live and learn side by side. That was the target as well. Understanding one another as people can only help us understand one another as peoples. On Wednesday the terrorists struck yet another blow against understanding and coexistence.
That's the terror that must be fought. It can't be accommodated. It can't be rationalized. It can only be defeated. Not just so the people of Israel can live the life of peace and freedom for which they yearn, but so that civilization can survive, so that discourse and not destruction can define the future.
Three of my six children will be spending the next year studying in Israel. I'm looking forward to having lunch with them in the Sinatra Cafeteria surrounded by people who have the courage to love peace.
The victims of Hebrew University will be mourned by fellow students when they return to their campuses in Jerusalem and around the world this fall. Students will try to make sense of this tragedy and remember them in a way that honors their memory. This chorus of student voices, through their learning and debate, will repudiate the forces of repression and darkness. It must. We are all Hebrew U students.