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On Jerusalem’s Mt. Scopus, stories of tragedy, daring and charity

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On December 1, 1982, a new 500 shekel bill was introduced into Israel’s currency. The face on the bill was that of Baron Edmund de Rothschild, or The Known Benefactor (hanadiv hayadua), so called for his immense contribution to the Jewish State-in-the-making.

As far as we can tell, however, another generous early philanthropist has never been similarly honored. Indeed, aside from teachers and tour guides, it is rare to find people who know anything about the man who bears the apt title of The Unknown Benefactor (hanadiv ha lo yadua).

Yet Israel Leib Goldberg was the first to buy land for the newly-formed Jewish National Fund, purchased the largest orchard in the country and hired well-paid Jewish labor to work it (today part of our fantastic Yarkon Park), co-founded the Hebrew newspaper Haaretz a century ago, was instrumental in the establishment of the Carmel Winery, supported Hebrew theater, and left half of his enormous estate to the JNF for the purpose of promoting Hebrew language and Hebrew culture.

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Confined by the general lockdown to venturing no more than one kilometer from our home, we decided to write an article about sites on nearby Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. We began with the Founders’ Wall, which features portraits of the men behind the Hebrew University. Israel Leib Goldberg in an undated photograph. (Public domain)

Inaugurated in 2013, it is located across from the main entrance to the university. And although in 1908 Goldberg was the first to purchase a plot on Mount Scopus to host that stellar institution, he doesn’t even appear on the Founders’ Wall.

On the far left is mathematics professor Zvi Hermann Shapira, who proposed the concept of a Jewish cultural institution in the land of Israel at the first Zionist Congress in 1897. Next are three men who published one of the documents that served as a basis for the university’s establishment: philosopher Prof. Martin Buber, Dr. Berthold Feivel and Dr. Chaim Weizmann. The wild-haired portrait to their left is easily recognizable as Prof. Albert Einstein, who brought both donations and scholars to the university.

The painting at the far end belongs to American-born Dr. Yehuda Leib Magnes; he was president of the university from the time of its inception in 1925 and until his death during the War of Independence in 1948. The Founders’ Wall on Mount Scopus features portraits of the men behind the Hebrew University and is located across........

© The Times of Israel

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