Professors at Hebrew University were among the leaders of a rally Wednesday against the Jewish presence in Shimon HaTzaddik, a historically Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem on the way to Mt. Scopus. Participants in the rally vandalized a memorial to fallen IDF paratroopers that stands in the neighborhood.
The protesters termed the neighborhood's Jewish residents “a plague,” and shouted slogans including “There is no sanctity in an occupied city.”
Among the professors who took part in the event was Professor Ze'ev Sternhal. Sternhal has previously referred to Jews in Judea and Samaria as “the fascist danger threatening to drown Israeli democracy,” has justified Arab violence against settlers, and has stated that the government must use force against them. He was awarded the Israel Prize in 2008.
Another academic present at the rally was Prof. Yaron Ezrachi.
Shimon HaTzaddik is named for Simon the Just, a Jewish sage who lived more than 2,000 years ago, around whose tomb the neighborhood was built and settled by Jews in the late 19th century. It sits on 18 dunams of land bought by the Sephardic Community Committee and the Ashkenazi Assembly of Israel. In 1948, during the War of Independence, it was overrun by Arab troops, and was controlled by Jordan until 1967. During that time, homes that remained standing were settled by Arab families, and Jews were not allowed to visit the tomb.
In recent years, Jews have returned to Shimon HaTzaddik, known in Arabic as Sheikh Jarrah, where they have created a thriving community after proving ownership. In some cases, Jews were forced to go to the courts to evict Arab families squatting in homes owned by Jews; the Sephardic community owners, supported by the courts, had asked for rent, but the Arabs would not pay. The returning Jews were falsely portrayed by local Arab leaders as having stolen Arab homes.