Bombing fails to deter foreigners

August 9, 2002

Foreign students at Jerusalem's Hebrew University have shown little inclination to leave despite last week's bomb that killed seven and wounded 97, according to university officials.

Steve Kaplan, incoming provost of the Rothberg School for international students at the university, said: "Only eight out of 520 students have pulled out."

But the continuing unrest in the region has had a longer-term impact on enrolment. While the numbers of students in the Hebrew University's graduate programme fell from 320 to 280 between 2000 and 2002, the figures for the undergraduate programme have plummeted from 600 to 120 over the same period.

"The students who are here are here for strong ideological reasons," Dr Kaplan said. "They won't pick up easily and leave. If everything had been stable between June-January, we might have expected to pick up another 100 students. It's not just the immediate effect."

He also said the bomb would affect students who were considering coming for the second semester and that budget cuts were likely. But he added: "The Rothberg School brings in students from over 40 countries. It is the multicultural wing of the Hebrew University. It would be a shame to have that shattered."

Paul Schamm, who coordinates Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian academic projects at the Hebrew University's Truman Institute, said he did not think the bomb would destroy the university's multicultural mission. "The people I am dealing with are not supporters of this. I don't blame them for this. Hamas are the joint enemy of both Israeli and Palestinian academics."

But he conceded that some things had changed. "People now recognise there is nothing sacred about the Hebrew University. Everyone thought it was off limits. It clearly is not. This does not change my opinion of Palestinians. It makes me more wary. I feel my own vulnerability. I thought I was in an island - I realise I am not."

Students were critical of security arrangements on campus in the aftermath of the bomb. Hebrew University officials had claimed that campus security was the best of all the universities in Israel. They now admit that it will have to be increased.

President Menachem Magidor said: "The university is an example of coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians. The murderous act that took place here was intended to prevent this coexistence. We will do everything in our power to stop the terrorists from reaching this goal."

Classes at the summer school resumed the day after the bomb. Of the seven fatalities, five were US citizens and two were Israelis.

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