Most of this blog post is from my colleagues Alex Lemann and Rebecca Blemberg who joined Natalie Fleury (our fabulous DR program coordinator) and me on the trip. It was such a delight to have them with us on this great and educational adventure. And, as they note, we are all likely returning with more questions rather than less. Here is one last group pic:
It is hard to believe that a month has gone by since we returned from Israel. On one hand, the experience was so intense and meaningful that it feels like it just ended. On the other hand, it was so far outside our normal experience that it immediately felt foreign, such that looking back now it almost feels like it was all a dream.
We have all had time to rest and reflect since we got home, and we even got the chance to gather socially for a potluck dinner. Seeing everyone again has been a great joy; there is a special bond between us now that we hope will be lasting. Initially, we wondered what it would be like to travel with 40 students. To our delight, we were warmly received by students and welcomed into serious conversations, joyful silliness, and everything in between. (We are grateful we got to travel with such wonderful students.)
One thing that has been particularly interesting upon our return has been following the news from Israel. Many students have been sending articles on current events to our (still vibrant!) group chat. Much of the news from the Middle East has a new immediacy that it lacked before our visit. We also feel informed and aware of the issues in a much deeper way than we were before. Reading that the Trump administration recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights mere days after being there ourselves, for instance, was almost surreal. And Benjamin Netanyahu’s reelection, a week after he promised to annex Israeli settlements in the West Bank, has given us all a lot to think about.
Alex: I still haven’t been able to shake something we heard on our very first night in Israel, from Dr. Alick Isaacs. Dr. Isaacs is the co-director of Siach Shalom, which works to create a dialogue about peace that builds on a foundation of deep respect for and understanding of the fervently-held religious beliefs of people on both sides. This type of emphasis feels very foreign to us as Americans, something Michael Karayanni, Dean of the faculty of law at Hebrew University, echoed on our very last day. To many Americans, the problem of peace between Israel and Palestine (and in the region more generally) can seem like an interesting puzzle, one whose solution lies in figuring out how to fit the pieces together (or perhaps divide them up) in just the right way. Dr. Isaacs suggested that to people of faith, the Holy Land cannot simply be divided up. It is as if, he said, two people found a Torah (a bible scroll) at the same time. Cutting the Torah in half is simply unthinkable; another way to share must be found.
Rebecca: The question that stays with me also came up at Dr. Isaacs’ talk, after he gave a powerful account of people meeting together after an act of violence and finding empathy for one another. Student Shayla Sanders asked how peacemakers can bring that deep empathy we experience when we interact as individuals into more large-scale political questions that consider group interests. That question stayed with me when we heard Adam Waddell from EcoPeace speak about sharing resources and social space and “being human with one another” despite differences. I thought about it again when Genevieve Begue from the Shutafot Coalition for Economic Equality spoke to us at Juha’s Guesthouse in Jisr al Zarqa and stated that sharing personal and even painful experiences bridged some cultural divides and helped create trust needed for a social business seeking to empower impoverished women and children. Again it came up at Kuchinate, a refugee women’s collective, in Jaffa. Refugees shared their personal stories with our group, and I will never again think about political questions concerning refugees and status without remembering these two brave women.
Where thoughts like these lead us is open to interpretation. One benefit of understanding a problem more deeply is that easy answers are no longer satisfying. At the very least we all feel that we all understand so much more than we did when we left, not only about Israel but maybe also about the human condition.
We can’t resist closing with a big Thank You to Professors Andrea Schneider and Natalie Fleury for all the work they put into this incredible class trip!
And thanks to all of our students for their wonderful reflections and our blog readers for their attention–feel free to reach out with any comments or questions. We hope that the blogs gave you a sense of the range of our trip and what we learned. What you might not have picked up is how much fun this was (for me too!) and how much I enjoyed. With much appreciation to Marquette Law School and our extra trip funders for supporting this!
Our last chunk of speakers were strong women who work to make Israel more inclusive and safer. Kylie Owens shared her thoughts on our first speaker.
Professor Halperin-Kaddari is a renowned expert in family law, who earned both her L.L.M. and J.S.D. from Yale Law School. Our visit with Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, a family law professor from Bar-Ilan University, was truly enlightening. Israel has a unique system of law that regulates marriage, divorce, and child custody issues. Under this system, mainly governed by religious courts, women can be oppressed, the courts completely prevent interfaith marriage, and domestic abuse can be overlooked. Professor Halperin-Kaddari discussed some of these problems in detail and offered a look at the current state of the opposition and efforts to change the system to allow the possibility of civil marriages in Israel.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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!
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.”
As we said our goodbyes to Yad Vashem, we headed towards the beautiful Israeli Supreme Court 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.
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.
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”
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”
The 2019 Summer Session in International and Comparative Law, commonly know at the Marquette University Law School as “the Giessen Program,” has been approved and will take place July 20 through August 15 on the campus of Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany.
There are still a small number of spots available for additional Marquette law students, students at the University of Wisconsin Law School, and students from other U.S. law schools. Information on the program is available at the Marquette University Law School website or by emailing Professor Ed Fallone at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in applying for the 2019 program, do not delay.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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!