Hebrew U students march for neighborhood safety

Rash of vandalism, sexual assaults in French Hill sparks outcry.

Hebrew University protest 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Hebrew University Student Union)
Hebrew University protest 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Hebrew University Student Union)
A spate of vandalism and attacks against Hebrew University students around the Mount Scopus campus prompted more than 150 students to take to the streets Tuesday for a candlelight march from the campus to the French Hill neighborhood.
The march followed an increase in stone-throwing incidents, vandalism against students’ cars, and even physical and sexual attacks against students walking from their classes to the French Hill neighborhood.
On February 29, police arrested a youth from the Isawiya neighborhood who sexually assaulted at least four female students and is suspected of assaulting more.
“This is not a new issue,” said Hebrew University Student Union president Itai Gutler on Thursday. “But during the last semester there were a lot of difficult events, worse than normal, and we wanted to demonstrate against them.”
Gutler said students are forced to travel to and from campus armed with pepper spray and their cellphones open in case they are attacked.
“After months of discussion, it’s time to show the authorities that we came here to live and study and not to battle for our survival,” Gutler said ahead of the protest.
Inbar Admon, who is in charge of the social involvement branch of the student union, said that because many students do not file formal complaints with the police, there are no numbers that point to an increase in attacks or vandalism.
“But this is a phenomenon that’s growing in terms of what students are feeling,” she said.
Hebrew University spokeswoman Orit Sulitzeanu said it was the responsibility of the police, and not the university, to patrol the areas and cut down on vandalism and break-ins. She added that the police had responded favorably to a recent request by the university to increase their presence in the area.
The impoverished Arab neighborhoods of Isawiya and a-Tur located next to Hebrew University are contributing to the problem, said students. Admon said the neighborhood youth are not given the resources or support they need, and therefore get into trouble in the area around the university. She called on the university to not “flee from their responsibility” as an educational institution to improve the areas surrounding the campus.
On Wednesday, student representatives met with Zion Precinct Chief Nissan Aderi to voice their complaints.
They demanded an increased police presence as well as infrastructure changes, such as better lighting outside of the campus, a fence around the parking lot, and more security cameras.
Additionally, students asked police to stand by their promise to send a patrol car to the site of every attack in order to take a formal complaint from the student. Sometimes, police ask students to report smashed windshields and other vandalism or other attacks at the precinct station, which is located in downtown Jerusalem. Often, students are so focused on fixing the vandalism or getting over an attack that they don’t file a formal police complaint.
“We understand there’s a problem that girls aren’t filing complaints [about sexual assault], but that doesn’t mean they can’t work on a solution to the whole issue,” said Admon. The students bristled at the police’s suggestion to join the volunteer civilian guard in the neighborhood.
“That’s a part of the solution, but that’s not the whole solution,” said Admon.
“We came here to learn, we’re already having difficulty finding apartments and paying high prices for them.
Our goal here is to finish our degrees, it’s unacceptable that we say we’re not feeling safe and they tell us to join civilian guard.”