Israel Reflections–Final Thoughts…Leave with More Questions

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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:

About 40 law students pose in casual clothes with the green hills of Israel in the background.

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Cross-posted at Indisputably.org .

Israel Reflections 2019–Feminism & Women

Posted on Categories Feminism, International Law & Diplomacy, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Religion & Law, UncategorizedLeave a comment» on Israel Reflections 2019–Feminism & Women

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.

Our second speaker Keren Greenblatt immediately connected to all of us  when she started speaking having fun when you go out at night.  She then talked about her organization Layla Tov (Hebrew for good night), which organizes bars and clubs to combat harassment.   (News story here.Continue reading “Israel Reflections 2019–Feminism & Women”

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 – 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–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

Posted on Categories International Law & Diplomacy, Negotiation, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public, Religion & Law, UncategorizedLeave a comment» on Israel Reflections 2019 Day Two: Masada, the Dead Sea and Dialogue

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

Putting Christ Back in Christmas

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Drawing of an elderly man in sleeping attire sitting in a Victorian style armchair and gazing at the ghost of an elderly man not unlike himself.
Scrooge and the Ghost of Marley by Arthur Rackham

Some are calling for a stronger connection between Christianity and Christmas, concomitantly rejecting the term “Xmas” as blasphemous, deploring the substitution of “Happy Holidays” for “Merry Christmas,” and urging generally that we “put Christ back in Christmas.”  Sincere religious beliefs prompt most of this campaign, but to what extent has Jesus Christ ever been the true heart of Christmas?

The Bible does not give the date of Jesus Christ’s birth, and it was not until the fourth century that the Catholic Church recognized December 25th as Jesus Christ’s birthday.  Historians have suggested the day was selected to coincide with pagan winter solstice celebrations that were held in many locations throughout Europe.  The solstice came at roughly the same time large numbers of cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during subsequent months.  Meat was as a result plentiful, as was the wine and beer that had been started during the preceding spring and summer and had now fermented.

In some areas, the partying was raucous and drunken, comparable perhaps to the partying that occurs at Mardi Gras.  Continue reading “Putting Christ Back in Christmas”

Restorative Justice and Clergy Abuse

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Several people sit in chairs in a "healing circle" discussing instances of abuse by clergy.My trip to Rome in spring 2016 triggered a return visit this past November, when I again taught a segment of a certificate program addressing the Catholic sex abuse scandal.

The Pontifical Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection offers the four-month graduate certificate program to religious sisters, brothers and priests from around the world who are assigned to head up Protection for Children offices. The program goals: to teach how to deal with past abuse and prevent further incidents.

I spent a full day with 19 students representing four continents. While there were some language barriers to overcome, the group was able to comprehend the power of Restorative Justice (“RJ) presented in different contexts — particularly its value regarding sexual abuse within the Church.

I explained how in past clergy abuse cases, it is not often possible to bring victims and offenders face-to-face in dialogue because many offenders are in denial, deceased or too old, with limited memory. We, therefore, explored the hope that RJ offers in addressing “secondary victimization” by members of the Church’s hierarchy.

Continue reading “Restorative Justice and Clergy Abuse”

Ninth Circuit Rules 3-0 Against Trump Administration: Analysis and Explanation

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Tonight, the Ninth Circuit issued an unanimous ruling in State of Washington v. Trump rejecting the Trump Administration’s motion for an emergency stay of the District Court’s temporary injunction.  That order by the District Court had the effect of halting enforcement of the President’s January 27 Executive Order suspending entry of aliens from seven specified countries into the United States.  In prior posts here and here, I argued that the January 27 Executive Order violated statutory provisions such as the 1980 Refugee Act and also that the Order violated the United States Constitution by discriminating on the basis of religion in the entry of immigrants and non-immigrants.

Tonight’s ruling by the Ninth Circuit is necessarily limited by the procedural posture of the case.  The court states at the outset:

To rule on the Government’s motion, we must consider several factors, including whether the Government has shown that it is likely to succeed on the merits of its appeal, the degree of hardship caused by a stay or its denial, and the public interest in granting or denying a stay. We assess those factors in light of the limited evidence put forward by both parties at this very preliminary stage and are mindful that our analysis of the hardships and public interest in this case involves particularly sensitive and weighty concerns on both sides. Nevertheless, we hold that the Government has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal, nor has it shown that failure to enter a stay would cause irreparable injury, and we therefore deny its emergency motion for a stay.  (opinion at p. 3)

Despite this procedural posture, the opinion issued by the court goes out of its way to make several strong statements of law.  First, the court firmly rejects the assertion of the Trump Administration that “the district court lacked authority to enjoin enforcement of the Executive Order because the President has ‘unreviewable authority to suspend the admission of any class of aliens.’ ” (opinion at p. 13). Continue reading “Ninth Circuit Rules 3-0 Against Trump Administration: Analysis and Explanation”