Israel Reflections 2019–Justice Aharon Barak

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MU Law students with retired Israeli Supreme Court Justice Aharon Barak

It is always such a highlight of our trip to hear from Justice Barak and this was no exception–student Lucas Baker reflected on the meeting:

It was an incredible opportunity to meet with retired Chief Justice of the Israeli Supreme Court, Justice Aharon Barak. Rarely do law students have the chance to learn from a true giant in the law. Justice Barak lectured our group about the general contours of Israel’s Judiciary and non-constitutional system, before we took a deeper dive into a number of other topics.

The Chief Justice fielded questions regarding differing judicial philosophies between the United States and Israel. With incredible insight, Justice Barak discussed how the public confirmation proceedings in the United States lead to manufactured and politicized “judicial philosophies.” In Israel, on the other hand, the confirmation process is not public and therefore not politicized, which allows for consensus in rules of interpretation. In Israel there are no “activist” nor “originalist” judges. Rather, judges have a much more uniform approach to the law. After witnessing the recent circus of a confirmation process here in the United States, it was fascinating to hear that there is little political split among judges, and no divergence in methods of interpretation in Israel.

Another key takeaway from Justice Barak’s lecture involved dispute resolution. Continue reading “Israel Reflections 2019–Justice Aharon Barak”

Israel Reflections 2019–Immigration, Racism, & Refugees

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Human Rights, Immigration Law, International Law & Diplomacy, Public, Race & LawLeave a comment» on Israel Reflections 2019–Immigration, Racism, & Refugees

On our first full morning in Tel Aviv, we turned to some (other) hard issues facing different parts of the population in Israel. Our first speaker was Mazal Bisawer, a PhD candidate and student leader at Tel Aviv University. Mazal spoke to us about the Ethiopian population in Israel—a minority within a minority—most of whom immigrated to Israel in the 1970’s and 1980’s. We’ve had visits with other Ethiopian Jews over the years (see blogs from 2017 here and 2015 here) dealing with the issue of diversity in Israel. And even on the main street in Tel Aviv, the concept of refugees is front and center with this beautiful mosaic:

Refugees mosaic

Shayla Sanders identified with Mazal’s comments:

She spoke broadly about police brutality against young Ethiopian men and emphasized that while only 2% of the population in Israel, Ethiopian young people make up 60% of the population in juvenile detention facilities. I was struck in this moment with a sickening, yet somehow validating sense of déjà vu. I recognized these statistics. I know that African Americans in the US face a similar plight. In hearing her speak to some of these issues, I heard some of the same emotions I myself experience when discussing racial issues here in the US. I heard in her the same passion I feel when discussing instances of injustice against my people. I heard her pain when she told us how people would say that Ethiopians should feel lucky to only be experiencing minor levels of racism because they are the only group of black people not brought by force into a country and compelled into slavery. I felt her frustration when she emphasized that speaking out on these issues, she is often met with the same reaction as if she had stated a belief in little green aliens and UFOs… I have myself been written off as a radical idealist who plays the race card all too frequently. I have been faced with those who would rather police my tone than address and confront the truth in my statements. So, imagine my utter lack of shock when our very own tour guide immediately dismissed Mazal as radical and gave an open invitation to our tour group to take her opinion with a grain of salt not granted to any of the other speakers we had seen thus far.

Continue reading “Israel Reflections 2019–Immigration, Racism, & Refugees”

Israel Reflections 2019 — Shared Society Continued!

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Great to see so many of us at the ABA conference this past week!  We will have blogs soon about conference sessions and lessons…And, in the meantime, here’s another from Israel:

Our work out for the week was held at Budo for Peace (BFP). BFP is an innovative non-profit educational organization based in Israel that uses the ethical values of traditional martial arts to empower children while promoting social harmony and peace in the Middle East. Since its establishment 14 years ago, BFP’s programs have impacted thousands of children from diverse cultural, religious, ethnic and socio-economic origins throughout Israel and the Middle East, including refugees in Lesvos, Greece.

A line of young martial arts students wearing black uniforms stand with a line of adults inside of a gynmasium.Yamilett Lopez said “When our group arrived, we got to practice some Budo with the children as well as learn about the Budo for Peace’s goals of advocating co-existence and dialogue, empowering females, fostering immigrant communities, and engaging at risk youth. Overall, it was amazing to see a sports organization help bridge a divide among communities.”  This was both a ton of fun and hilarious!

A smiling adult in athletic clothing rests his leg on top of the shoulder of a smiling friend.We then had dinner at Juha’s Guesthouse in Jisr a Zarqa. Meaghan McTigue noted “The town is the only Arab village on the Israeli coast of the Mediterranean Sea and their guest house is an embodiment of hope in their future. The guest house is the fruits of a Jisr local Ahmed and Jewish Israeli Neta. The unlikely pair partnered with a shared vision and believe in the potential of the town and its people. The guest house serves as an economic asset to the village where guests are encouraged to explore the area and shop from local merchants.”

Cross posted at Indisputably.org .

Israel Reflections 2019—Shared Society

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One key focus of our trip was all of the organizations working on shared society across groups in Israel. Our day of shared society started at Sindyanna of Galilee with a Za’atar workshop. Sindyanna of Galilee is a non-profit organization that employs Arab and Jewish women who aim to create a peaceful coexistence between the two cultures. The students were able to create their own Za’atar after hearing from employees on how they strive to create peace. (This was delicious! And all available on Amazon too…)

We then headed towards Nazareth to have lunch and see The Basilica of Annunciation. When we arrived there was a service in progress in front of the Grotto of the Annunciation. For student Margaret Spring it was one of the most breathtaking experiences she has ever had in a church. “Being at one of the most sacred Christian sites in the world while a congregation was singing is something that I will never forget.”

Our next stop was Givat Haviva. Givat Haviva is dedicated to promoting mutual responsibility, civic equality and cooperation between divided groups in Israel as the foundation for building a shared future and shared society—critical elements of a sustainable and thriving Israeli democracy. While there, we visited the divided city of Barta’a.

Student Mercy De La Rosa wrote a thoughtful self-reflection that is shared in full about her experience at Givat Haviva and how that compared to her childhood in El Paso near the Mexican at the Texas border.

 

 

Walking through the rolling green lawns of Givat Haviva, it was hard not to draw comparisons to college campuses across America with laughing students stretched out on beautiful trimmed lawns. This, however, is no idyllic American campus. Instead here Muslims and Jews strive to work together bridging differences and embracing commonalities. Clearly underneath the beautiful surface there has been a lot of hard work in community building and deep difficult conversations. Armed with cookies, coffee, and a razor-sharp witted Welsh guide we trekked to the Barta’a….Driving up to the town, I never imagined what was in wait for me. Driving up Lydia shared a heartbreaking story of how she often felt like a person divided, split between friendships on what at first glance seems like diametrically opposed sides. In hindsight, that story should have prepared me for the painfully wonderful parallels that would be presented between my home city of El Paso Texas and Barta’a. As we walked through the city, I was vaguely reminded of downtown El Paso until we hit the market area where all I could see was memories of Juarez. Granted it has been at this point almost 12 years since I have been to Juarez, but to me it felt like someone had just put up Arabic signs instead of ones in Spanish. As we ascended into the mountains to better see the divide, it was like looking out from Scenic Drive where you can see the connection of the two downtowns. From that viewpoint almost seamlessly merging into one another. On closer examination you can see the border but looking at it from a distance it is more a feeling than articulable distinguishing characteristics….This small town shook me to my core, serving as a stark reminder that though we may travel far from home sometimes it is the familiar that frightens and motivates us the most.

[Cross-posted at Indisputably.]

Israel Reflections—Golan Heights, the Galilee and the Druze

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The group had a memorable night at the kibbutz and were very sad to leave the cozy cottages we were able to stay in. Our busy day (Tuesday) of sight-seeing started with a visit to Mount Bental. At the peak of Mt. Bental we had views of Golan and Syria. Taylor Brisco and her friends went into the army bunker to imagine what it was like to be a solider during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Ms. Brisco said “Visiting Mount Bental was one of my favorite activities due to the historical significance of the mountain peak and also for the amazing view of Golan—and even Syria.” Below is a view from the bunker over to Mt. Hermon where this is still snow…

View from Mount Bental, Israel

Continue reading “Israel Reflections—Golan Heights, the Galilee and the Druze”

Israel Reflections 2019 – Supreme Court and Eco Peace

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As we said our goodbyes to Yad Vashem, we headed towards the beautiful Israeli Supreme A picture of the Israeli Supreme CourtCourt to hear from former Chief Justice Asher Dan Grunis. Justice Grunis spoke to the students about the differences between the U.S. Supreme Court and the Israeli Supreme Court.  The comparison in the annual caseload (about 70 cases in the U.S. versus 15,000 cases in Israel!) really stood out for the students.  The court have 15 justices that generally sit in panels of three to hear the cases.

After driving up north, we ended the day with a speech from Adam Waddell from Eco-Peace. Eco peace is an NGO that works to facilitate peace talks and promote sustainable development between the Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli governments. Aurusa Kabani shared her thoughts about this NGO.

Continue reading “Israel Reflections 2019 – Supreme Court and Eco Peace”

Israel Reflections 2019 – Yad Vashem

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View looking out over the Israeli countryside of rolling hills and trees from within the Holocaust Memorial.The day after our interesting trip to Palestine we visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s holocaust memorial. Many of the students on the trip had learned about the Holocaust in school and visited the Holocaust museum in D.C., but nothing could really prepare them for this experience. In advance, I had each student research someone on the Avenue of the Righteous to understand choices made during World War II.  Jordan Janikowski thought:

One beautiful memorial that served as a beacon of hope was the Avenue of the Righteous, a garden of trees dedicated to individuals and families who risked their lives in order to help save others during the holocaust. This serves as a reminder that we all need to take responsibility in standing up for others although it is still incomprehensible how such an inhumane tragedy could have occurred, there are many parallels to today’s society. It is important that we continue to educate ourselves about the past to ensure that these kinds of atrocities never happen again.

One of the many breathtaking moments in the museum at the end in the Hall of Names. Kelly Krause noted:

As you stand on a platform, pictures of 600 Jewish victims are above you and below the platform is a well. Around you there are binders that contain approximately 2.2 million pages of testimony about the more than 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. Sadly the room is not full, recognizing that some of the names of those who perished have not been discovered..In this room I felt the impact and scale of the Holocaust far more than any museum, film, or book has made me feel before. Exiting this room, you once again walk into light, but this time it’s the light from the view of the State of Israel. This view of the Jewish state looks different than the one when you entered the museum, in more ways than one.

Before we left Yad Vashem we heard from Professor Amos Hausner, son of Gideon Hausner, the lawyer who prosecuted Adolf Eichmann. Professor Hausner spoke to the students about the trial, and international criminal justice reform. Steve Deguire reflected on one particular remark:

His father felt the prosecution and execution of Eichmann had not been successful because he saw no indications of a deterrence effect from the trial in preventing genocides…This statement remains true to this day with modern day genocides, (i.e. Myanmar, South Sudan, and Central Africa); the handful of prosecutions to actually occur will not be sufficient to deter genocide. The example provided by the Eichmann trial will remain a standard for the international criminal justice system when dealing with genocide.

Cross-posted at Indisputably.org

Israel Reflections 2019–A Visit to Palestine

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On Sunday afternoon, we headed to the West Bank aka Palestine, and again had an amazing new experience for me.   It was also pretty impactful for the students as you will read below.  We had with us for the entire afternoon, the very talented Riman Barakat, a Fulbright scholar who completed her studies at Marquette and perennial speaker to our group.  As a native of East Jerusalem, Riman also serves as a Director for East Jerusalem and Palestinian Relations for Jerusalem Season of Culture. Continue reading “Israel Reflections 2019–A Visit to Palestine”

Israel Reflections 2019–Holy Sites in the Old City

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On our second full day in Israel, we visited the Old City to gain perspective at how the crossroads of religion all seem to meet here. And, for the first time, we could actually ascend to the top of the Temple Mount to see the Dome of the Rock up close. (I had not been able to do this since 1992!)

Haley Stepanek was in awe of how “Billions of people revere this site as one of the holiest on earth: for Muslims, Temple Mount contains the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque; for Jews, it is the site where Abraham sacrificed his son Isaac to God,” and the site of the first and second Temples. In fact, our visit to the Temple Mount happened just days before it was again temporarily closed when news broke that a Molotov cocktail was thrown on the grounds of Temple Mount. This event, and many events that happened around us while we were on this trip, gave everyone a sense of how present the conflict is. Continue reading “Israel Reflections 2019–Holy Sites in the Old City”

Israel Reflections 2019 Day Two: Masada, the Dead Sea and Dialogue

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About twenty young people in casual dress surround a Marquette University flag at Masada in Israel.On Day 2 of our magical trip to Israel we visited Masada and the Dead Sea. As student Alexander Hensley put it “[It] was the perfect way to kick off this trip.” (Let me note to all travelers, a day in the sun outside is quintessential jetlag recovery!)

The story of Masada is one that flies under the radar for many non-Jewish people but is fascinating to learn its history. The isolated plateau that is Masada has a history of being a fortress, built into a palace by Herod and then used as the last holdout by the Jews fighting the Romans in 70 A.D.  Today it is one of Israel’s largest tourist attractions not only for its history but the beauty of it rising up in the desert.  Alex Hensley “absolutely loved standing over the Dead Sea and looking down at the ramp that the Romans built.” Our tour guide Yoav expertly guided the group across the fortress in record time. As student Cole Altman so aptly stated “To be able to share its beauty and joy with the entire group was absolutely incredible.”

We then headed toward the Dead Sea to float. Many of the students decided to “farm” the mineral rich mud to rub all over their bodies. The mud makes your skin extremely smooth and floating was definitely a highlight of the trip for many students.

Law students in bathing suits stand and wave in the waters of the Dead Sea.

After a rest, we then started our more academic visits on Saturday evening.  We heard from Dr. Alick Isaacs  who is the Co-director of Siach Shalom (translated as Talking Peace).   This is an organization that works to create dialog about peace using religion rather than arguing to take the religion out of the conflict and tries to include and welcome religious leaders who have been dissenting voice against previous peace efforts inside Israel. Dr. Isaacs is the author of A Prophetic Peace: Judaism, Religion, and Politics which recounts his experience as a combat soldier in the Second Lebanon War.  Dr. Issacs’  talk included snippets of how he made “Aliyah” (The immigration process for Jew’s to move to Israel) after dealing with anti-Semitism in England growing up, and discussed Judaism as an ethnic identity.  (Here is a link to a talk he gave several years ago) Student Van Donkersgoed explained that hearing Dr. Isaacs speak “Helped form the context for much of the trip, and also helped clarify my perception of Jewish culture and the State of Israel.”

Cross-posted at Indisputably.org

Israel Reflections 2019: Let’s Do This!

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Hi blogosphere–it is my pleasure to start us off with blogging about this year’s spring break trip. We had 40, yes 40!, law students on this trip with four faculty. And it was a great group.

Per usual, we started off on Friday night with a lookout over Jerusalem where we all celebrated our safe and easy arrival.

View overlooking the City of Jerusalum with homes and low buildings in the distance and a large golden domed building. Then we visited the Western Wall to see the prayers at Shabbat. This can be both beautiful and unsettling, as men and women are separated. And, as we had arrived on International Women’s Day, the difference was even more notable.

As student Madison Mears noted, “The [smaller] women’s side was crowded and silent; the only noise filling the women’s area came from the prayers, songs, and chants of the men from the other side of the fence…To experience that dichotomy of expression and repression, left me walking away with more questions…” This impact of religion and gender continued to be a theme throughout the week as was the fact that we often left with more questions than when we came.

The Israeli flag flies in a courtyard outside of a brick building. Student Micaela Bear also noted how the separation of the sexes led to questions by her classmates but also wrote, “As a Jewish student at a Jesuit law school, it was hard to fathom that my cohorts of different religions would feel such a special connection to a Jewish holy site. It filled my hear with warmth to experience the start of Shabbos with Jews of all denominations, but also to share this experience with my classmates.”

I felt the same way–what a privilege to be able to share a place I love with a new group of students!

Cross-posted at Indisputably.org

Heartbroken in Pittsburgh

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I thought that teaching the Kavanaugh hearings in a careful and respectful manner a few weeks ago would be the biggest teaching challenge of the semester. I was wrong. This weekend, as you have all no doubt heard, a gunman with a history of anti-Semitic rants and far too many legally acquired guns in his possession, entered a synagogue and killed 11 people there in the middle of Saturday morning prayers.

Tree of Life is a synagogue in the heart of the Squirrel Hill neighborhood in Pittsburgh. This is my home. I went to Hebrew School at Tree of Life, my mom was a teacher there—it is one of several synagogues in this neighborhood that we have belonged to over the years and those killed are parents, cousins, dear friends of our community—two learning-disabled men, leaders of the synagogue, the list is too painful.

As the newspapers have noted, Squirrel Hill has been a Jewish enclave in Pittsburgh for years but that also misses the point of its diversity.  Continue reading “Heartbroken in Pittsburgh”