These words are being written as the second day of an “understanding” goes into effect between Israel and the disparate, hostile forces in Lebanon. The grapes of wrath are, for now, no longer being pressed.

I would not be so presumptuous as to say we were on the front line along with Kiriat Shemona and other settlements of the Panhandle or even the Western Galilee. We are, however, the closest university to the northern border – merely 30 miles away – and for that reason alone felt the threat of rocket attacks in our hinterland, if I may borrow a term from the shipping world.

At the initiative of the Student Union, school children from the North were invited to spend a day here in our safe port. It is a gesture that must be applauded.

It was not a pretty sight to witness, as the TV brought home to us, the abandonment of settlements in the Upper Galilee. The compensation was the saving of innocent lives. That the civilian withdrawal was tactical proved itself less than 24 hours after the understanding went into effect, as residents began streaming back to their homes.

It was not just the Jewish citizens of Kiriat Shemona who had to escape. Arab and Druze villagers whose towns were in the line of fire were also forced out of harm’s way. In a manner of speaking, it was a back-hand demonstration of equality. The Katyushas made no distinction among Israeli citizens. Jew, Arab Druze – all were subject to sudden attack, all had to take shelter, all had to flee for safety, all were equal.

L’havdil (a Hebrew expression to indicate a comparison of wheat and chaff), the University of Haifa strives to provide the educational wherewithal that will make for real equality. The Jewish, Arab, and Druze students who come from the North freely seek the educational opportunity that the University affords them. Their shelter is the world of ideas, their ultimate safety rational thinking. All inculcated on an equal basis.

Israel stands before elections, whose outcome will be decided by the time this newspaper comes off the press. Free choice, equally provided, is the mark of a democratic society, and is distinguished from what a historian has called approval under the guise of choice. Totalitarian societies are characterized by the latter.

In my report to the Board of Governors, I said that the academic year about to conclude lay in the shadow of tragedies that struck Israel—an assassination, bus bombings, rocket attacks. These events are the antitheses of democracy, rationality, and equality.

We at the University of Haifa hope that through example and through the knowledge we both impart and research, we are installing a sense of democracy, an air of rationality, and a concept of true equality among our graduates to take into the society at large.

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