Israel Diaries #1

Cherry tomatoes! They perfected the cherry tomato. The scientists credited with this illusive feat beamed down from their huge poster portraits at the fascinated and admiring gawkers.

Israel Diaries #1

The little gallery on a bend in a corridor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is just large enough for passers-by to not knock into the arrested visitors. It is a pause for breath on the long path the Jewish people have walked, a moment to reflect on their accomplishments and especially on that thing they call chutzpah.

They staked their claim to their homeland by founding a university, and brought together some of their greatest minds, Sigmund Freud, Martin Buber and Chaim Weizmann and Albert Einstein, to get it off the ground. The latter bequeathed his library to the nation, and it is now housed in that august institution. It has been the greatest honour of my life to be welcomes into the Albert Einstein Archives at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The statistics are staggering: 0.2% of the world’s population, 22.5% of all Nobel Prizes. All the odds were stacked against them. That I would spend the rest of my life learning as much as I can from this remarkable people goes without saying. What better place to start than with their language. I had my first formal Hebrew lesson on 7 May 2021, after a month of teaching myself the script, both print and hand. The greatest gift that history ever bestowed upon the Muslims was to place the Jews right in their midst, and their founding university right in Jerusalem. They've had everything going for them. 24.1% of the world’s population, 0.8% of all Nobel Prizes. The statistics are staggering.

Some choose vengeance, others choose hope...

Schmuel Cohen, composer of Hatikvah (credit: Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem)

Of the people who bombed the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and those who feel themselves affirmed in this act of the carnage, I have only this to say:

I understand they had a Golden Age while Europe wallowed in ignorance and brutality. I understand they had great scientists: mathematicians, astronomers, chemists, physicians, and the like. I understand they had a Translation Movement that brought the vast knowledge of the ancient world to the Dark Age peoples. I understand they had wise philosophers and intrepid explorers. I'm only glad that English grammar has a past tense, else we might never have known.

I was pleasantly surprised to find another connection to Chaim Weizmann...

Dr Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk was the first President of Czechoslovakia, who also founded a new nation on a new university, Masaryk University. The last word, therefore, has to go to his guest and friend, Dr Chaim Weizmann, the first President of Israel, and one of the founders of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem:

Little did I realise that I was about to learn just how closely Israel and the Czech Republic, two small nations embodying the noblest of ideals, emerged into a hostile world forming the closest of bonds. It is a story that inspires and gives hope...