One of the visions of the Zionist movement was the establishment of a Jewish university in the Land of Israel. Founding a university was proposed as far back as 1884 in the Kattowitz (Katowice) conference of the Hovevei Zion society.
The cornerstone for the university was laid on July 24, 1918. Seven years later, on April 1, 1925, the Hebrew University campus on Mount Scopus was opened at a gala ceremony attended by the leaders of the Jewish world, distinguished scholars and public figures, and British dignitaries, including the Earl of Balfour, Viscount Allenby and Sir Herbert Samuel. The University's first Chancellor was Judah Magnes.
By 1947, the University had become a large research and teaching institution. Plans for a medical school were approved in May 1949, and in November 1949, a faculty of law was inaugurated. In 1952, it was announced that the agricultural institute founded by the University in 1940 would become a full-fledged faculty.
During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, attacks were carried out against convoys moving between the Israeli-controlled section of Jerusalem and the University. The leader of the Arab forces in Jerusalem, Abdul Kader Husseini, threatened military action against the university Hadassah Hospital "if the Jews continued to use them as bases for attacks."After the Hadassah medical convoy massacre, in which 79 Jews, including doctors and nurses, were slaughtered, the Mount Scopus campus was cut off from Jerusalem. British soldier Jack Churchill coordinated the evacuation of 700 Jewish doctors, students and patients from the hospital.
When the Jordan government denied Israeli access to Mount Scopus, a new campus was built at Givat Ram in western Jerusalem and completed in 1958. In the interim, classes were held in 40 different buildings around the city.
The Terra Santa building in Rehavia, rented from the Franciscan Custodians of the Latin Holy Places, was also used for this purpose. A few years later, together with the Hadassah Medical Organization, a medical science campus was built in the south-west Jerusalem neighborhood of Ein Kerem.
By the beginning of 1967, the students numbered 12,500, spread among the two campuses in Jerusalem and the agricultural faculty in Rehovot. After the unification of Jerusalem, following the Six-Day War of June 1967, the University was able to return to Mount Scopus, which was rebuilt. In 1981 the construction work was completed, and Mount Scopus again became the main campus of the University.
On July 31, 2002, a member of a terrorist cell detonated a bomb during lunch hour at the University's "Frank Sinatra" cafeteria when it was crowded with staff and students. Nine people — five Israelis, three Americans, and one dual French-American citizen — were murdered and more than 70 wounded. World leaders, including Kofi Annan, President Bush, and the President of the European Union issued statements of condemnation. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has launched a marijuana research center in a bid to take a leading role in the burgeoning field. t will conduct and coordinate research on cannabis and its biological effects with an eye toward commercial applications."