Israel: Day 8

The first night we actually get used to the time shift, we are wrenched from our sleep after receiving a 5:30 a.m. wake up call. After hurling the telephone against the wall, we dressed in our Tuesday’s best and made our way down to the bus for an early morning meeting with President Barak, the former chief justice of the Israeli Supreme Court.

After roughly an hour drive from Jerusalem to Herzlia, a town just outside of Tel Aviv, we finally arrived at (Blank) Law School, eager to hear the internationally renowned justice speak. President Barak entered the room. We stood to our feet, sharpened our minds, and settled in for an exhilarating lecture. President Barak was quick to issue incisive commentary, stating that Israel has a “crippled” constitution, yet such a constitution is better than no constitution at all.

Specifically, President Barak indicated that the Israeli Constitution consisted of 11 Chapters, including the basic laws of Israel. To illustrate, in 1992, Israel’s Knesset (legislature) enacted two of the more recent basic laws, including the human right of dignity and the human right to choose and practice a profession. These basic laws are extremely significant because they serve as a wellspring from which several implied rights, such as free speech are derived.

This statement invited multiple interpretations of the constitution. On one hand, there is the notion of loose constructionism, by where the language of the constitution is broadly interpreted and subject to change (a stance that President Barak seemed to favor). Conversely, there is also the potential to label the constitution as vague and ambiguous, requiring further development to cure the inherent defects in such a document. Needless to say, this exchange served as an overwhelming revelation into the myriad potential interpretations of the constitutional language that spark discord.

President Barak continued his commentary on the issues facing the state, describing the development of judicial review and its far-reaching effects, the role of the legislature in curing the defects in judicial opinion, and a series of conversations with President Jimmy Carter.

After an hour lecture, President Barak fielded probing questions from all comers, tackling inquiries ranging from the West Bank to the possible parallels between the Holocaust and Israel’s current treatment of the Palestinians. A group picture concluded our meeting with this giant of the Israeli legal landscape. We made way to the student union to politic with the student body, whose collective gaze towards us piqued our interest. Conversations were had over perhaps the largest (and cheapest) cheese sandwich ever fashioned by man. Digestive supplements were taken, appetite was sated, the bus was found and the road was met.

~ PV Wonder & Rutherford Saxberry

This afternoon, we visited the legal clinic at Al Quds University in East Jerusalem. The residents of East Jerusalem are not considered citizens of Israel, Jordan, or the occupied territories of Palestine. They only have residency status in Israel. On our way, we drove along the security wall erected by the Israeli Government separating the residents of East Jerusalem from the citizens in the Israeli settlements. The wall consisted of intimidating slabs of gray concrete encapsulating the entire city of East Jerusalem.
As American citizens, we were allowed entrance through the security gates and drove along an expressway reserved for Israeli citizens. As we approached the university campus, we noticed the drastic change in landscape and architecture. The vast areas of green trees and shrubs were instantly replaced with shades of gray dust and rocks. To combat the depressing environment, the residents of East Jerusalem used the wall for artistic expression. One painting depicted a pasture of flowers reaching for sunlight, contrasted with a more militant painting of a firmly clenched fist. Before conversing with a single student, we knew our discussion here would be a drastic departure from those of this morning.
We were warmly greeted with smiles by a delegation of law students and proceeded on a museum tour dedicated to Palestinian political prisoners. Following the tour, four senior law students presented independent research on the effects of the wall, the increase of Palestinian home destructions, the growing withdrawal of identification cards, and the restrictions placed on Palestinians returning to Israel at the airport (which we personally experience ourselves).
Through the presentations, we heard the rarely discussed socioeconomic consequences of the ongoing crisis between Israel and its Arab residents. Access to necessary resources, including water, healthcare, jobs and education, has been severely reduced for these residents. East Jerusalem faces total isolation from all other parts of the country. Students shared personal stories of activism and leadership during conflict. The most heart-wrenching stories were those of separated families, with mixed nationality, who are not allowed to be reunited under current laws. While listening to their accounts, I remembered an African adage that “when elephants fight, it is the ground that suffers.” I immediately thought of the innocent children and the unspoken psychological trauma they have suffered. They have no parks or playgrounds, and are bombarded with images of war, including heavily armed guards and security checkpoints. Most sadly, these children have witnessed the fear, hopelessness, and desperation in their parents’ eyes.


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  1. Posted September 2, 2011 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    How can these expect veterans who have seen action to just go back to normal civilian life. They need help and support to acclimatise. It is just too simple to throw money at the problem especially when money often isn’t the reason why veterans struggle to get jobs. If you go direct into some parts of the armed forces what exactly are you trained for? you are not trained to think for yourself but to follow orders.

  2. Marc Azada
    Posted September 28, 2011 at 2:58 am | Permalink

    This is an awesome news! I’m glad that Eric Shinseki made a promise to help unemployed veterans. Good Job! I’m looking for the results of his advocacy.

  3. Posted October 27, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    We should salute the veterans and without them the very survival of a sovereign nation will be in question. It is heartening to know the initiatives taken by the government for their welfare. Small business conferences will expose them to the business opportunities available. The incentives given to them and to the companies who recruit them will go a long way in helping them settle decently as a civilian. It is important that they should be made as business entrepreneurs instead of job seekers.

  4. Posted March 31, 2012 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    It’s nice to see that they are doing something for the Veterans. These soldiers need help at least to get them started with their civilian lives.