Vol. 20



Vol. 20  August 2015


The Faculty Then and Now

- Prof. Joshua Weisman -


Over the years, our Faculty has managed to become one of the best “faculties of American law” in the United States. The challenge it faces is how not to allow this achievement to come at the expense of its character as the best Israeli law faculty.





Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
-Yuval Simhi-

A former state comptroller, a retired judge, and a recipient of the Israel Prize find themselves together in the same place. This is a daily occurrence in the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University. Leading and influential figures from the Israeli legal world effectively established the Faculty and continue to come here to teach and engage in research.



Big Brother - The Legal Version
- Yuval Shoham-
A new mentoring program at the Faculty matches first-year undergraduates with Faculty graduates. The graduates read papers written by the students for their Legal Writing and Research course and offer useful comments.




Law and Social Work - An Unlikely Match?

- Yuval Simhi-

Of all the interesting combinations offered by the Faculty of Law, the joint degree with social work is particularly intriguing. Despite the real differences between the two disciplines, students taking the joint program explain that the two distinct worldviews are actually complementary.




Holocaust and Law

- Yuval Simhi-

One of the most interesting courses offered at the Faculty of Law is entitled Holocaust and Law, taught by Attorney Aryeh Barnea. We met the lecturer to discuss the fascinating connection between the Holocaust, the law, morality, and the role of the legal expert.



Theater and Law

- Yuval Simhi-

For a decade the Faculty of Law has offered a unique workshop addressing the interface between law and theater. To an outside observer the two fields might seem to have little in common, but those who have experienced their common aspects report that the connection is evident and even intuitive.

Short meetings with faculty students


Empirical Research in Academia and in Legal Practice
The Research Methods course is one of the latest additions to the curriculum for the bachelor’s degree in law. The course aims to provide the students with basic knowledge of the research methods used by legal scholars. In order to understand the connection between empirical research and law, and how academic research and legal practice are combined, we spoke to Dr. Keren Weinshall-Margel, who is teaching the course.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Faculty of Law - All Rights Reserved

Big Brother - The Legal Version

Big Brother - The Legal Version


A new mentoring program at the Faculty matches first-year undergraduates with Faculty graduates. The graduates read papers written by the students for their Legal Writing and Research course and offer useful comments.

-Yuval Shoham-

Just eight months after Sapir Peles began her studies at the Faculty of Law, she found herself standing in front of former Justice Minister Professor Yaacov Neeman, listening to his comments on the first legal paper she had ever written. “To be honest I was very worried. I was worried that he would tell me that my legal arguments weren’t any good,” Sapir admits. “But in fact he strongly agreed with my points and we had a very fruitful and interesting discussion.” 

Many of Sapir’s classmates must have been similarly anxious. Some 60 first-year students participated this year in a new program at the Faculty that “twinned” each student with an attorney, judge, or senior legal expert who is an alumni of the Faculty. The mentors read the legal paper written by the student in their Legal Writing and Research course and offered their opinion. Thus alongside the comments of the course teachers, the students got a chance to meet with senior and experienced legal experts and to listen to their opinions. 

“When the dean of the Faculty initiated the program, the thought behind it was that we have a wonderful pool of alumni, and we want to develop our connection with them and their bond with the Faculty. We felt this was a great way for them to contribute some of their extensive experience,” explains Adv. Yael Kariv-Teitelbaum, the course coordinator. “Not every first-year student has a judge for a parent, and I think it’s important that they meet people from the field of practice. Apart from that, I know that people sometimes feel that while the students at the Faculty are great interns and have sharp and profound legal minds, their writing and legal phrasing aren’t always as good as they should be. So I think it’s great that another pair of eyes reviews their paper and offers an opinion.” Attorney Kariv-Teitelbaum emphasizes that the goal of the meetings between student and mentor is to offer the students a different and broader perspective. “The mentors don’t judge the papers according to the criteria used by the course teachers and they don’t give a final grade. Instead, they draw on their broader worldview and offer some tips and comments concerning the quality of the writing and the legal arguments. Above all, they aim to provide tools that will be helpful to the students as they continue their studies. The meetings also sparked more personal discussions, and many students told us that they had developed a good connection with their mentor. Some of them even decided to stay in touch in the future.” 



Adv. Yael Kariv-Teitelbaum


“Taking a 360-Degree View of Reality” 
In the course, which is compulsory for all first-year students, the participants choose a research question relating to a specific legal issue and write a 3,500-word paper on their chosen subject. For most of them, this is their first encounter with legal writing. By way of example, Sapir wrote a paper discussing the ramifications of the declaration of areas of land in East Jerusalem as a national park, and considered whether this move enables equal construction and development for all the residents of the city. Sapir says that while her subject could be considered an overtly political one, she managed to avoid the pitfall of political bias in her paper. “Professor Neeman, whose political views may differ from my own, was very matter-of-fact and didn’t let politics influence our discussions,” she emphasizes. “Indeed, it was interesting to view the subject through the eyes of someone who has served in government and made numerous decisions relating to the issue addressed by my paper. For example, I mentioned that the decision to establish the national park on the slopes of Mt. Scopus was taken in 2013, when Neeman was justice minister. So I was fortunate to have a mentor who is a real expert in my chosen subject. We also had an interesting discussion about the history of Jerusalem. As a native of Jerusalem who spent part of his childhood in the Old City, Neeman brought to our discussions the personal angle of what it is like to grow up in a city with so many rifts.” 

For his part, Professor Neeman comments: “I think it is really important that even at a very early stage, students take a 360-degree view of reality, rather than a 90-degree or 45-degree perspective. It’s important that they can appreciate and understand broad social ramifications – the ways that any subject influences political and other aspects. It’s important that they have a broad perspective on reality. That’s why I’m so pleased that they contacted me and I think this project is very important. Apart from that, Sapir’s paper was excellent.” 

The Legal Expert’s Main Tool 
As everyone knows, the pen is mightier than the sword. Yet the pens of recent generations seem much less mighty. Young generations spend every minute of their day immersed in smartphones, Facebook, and Twitter, and they find it hard to free themselves of the need to cram as much information as possible into as few sentences as they can. Anything more than 140 characters seems to be droning on; and who even has time to read a whole book?! While it may be reasonable to assume that law students have stronger-than-average writing skills, the course – and the new program – can surely give them a significant helping hand. “I think it starts as early as high school: they don’t work enough with the students to develop their writing and phrasing abilities. You can see something of a deterioration in this respect,” agrees Attorney Kariv-Teitelbaum. “In the course we try to teach the students how to write a proper argument, how to undertake legal research, how to phrase themselves properly, and so forth. But obviously we can’t give them feedback on every sentence. The students need to learn to write – certainly as jurists, for whom writing is naturally their main tool. I certainly hope that as many students as possible will participate in the program next year.” 

"Researchers in the Field:" Empirical Research in Academia and in Legal Practice

“Researchers in the Field:” Empirical Research in Academia and in Legal Practice


The Research Methods course is one of the latest additions to the curriculum for the bachelor’s degree in law. The course aims to provide the students with basic knowledge of the research methods used by legal scholars. In order to understand the connection between empirical research and law, and how academic research and legal practice are combined, we spoke to Dr. Keren Weinshall-Margel, who is teaching the course.

-Yuval Simhi-

Empirical legal research seems to be a growing field in recent years. “For a while, law and economics was the rising star, to the point they everyone now thinks in terms of cost and benefit. But today the hot topic is empirical law,” says Dr. Keren Weinshall-Margel, an expert in empirical research into legal and social institutions. Alongside her research work, Dr. Weinshall-Margel is now also teaching the Research Methods course at the Faculty of Law, which was introduced into the curriculum over the past year. The new course in itself highlights the rising importance of empirical research. 

Before joining the academic faculty, Dr. Weinshall-Margel founded and directed the The Israeli Courts Research Division )ICRD) in the Judicial Authority for some four years. “I heard about this new division while I was working as a visiting scholar at Harvard,” she recalls. “It seemed like a wonderful opportunity to combine academic research and the possibility to have a practical impact on the world, and I hoped to make an improvement in a field that is important to me.” After returning to Israel, Dr. Weinshall-Margel set to work straight away building the new division . “I had to start thinking about the goals of a research body inside the Judicial Authority, its structure and working procedures, and the type of studies it should undertake.” 

The new division drew its inspiration from the Federal Judicial Center in the US, which also includes a research unit. “Serving as a research body for the judicial system is a unique function. As I perceived and defined it, our client is the court administration. Those who instructed us to engage in research were the Supreme Court presidents – firstly, President Beinisch and later, President Grunis, who headed the department’s steering committee. But despite this, we were completely independent in preparing our studies, and we could also recommend research subjects to the steering committee. For example, we realized that there is a problem with legal costs, and we proposed to undertake an empirical study to examine how legal costs are awarded, and what social and legal interests are actually served by this mechanism. Our studies were always empirical and never normative. We would present our conclusions, and the great thing was seeing them put into practice. For example, one of our most important projects was to define a Case Wight Index for evaluating judicial workloads based on the average judicial time invested in different case types. Almost immediately after we finished our study, the index was implemented throughout the court system. Today cases are allocated to judges and staff positions are transferred between courts on the basis of our study and our index. That’s a great feeling for a researcher – to see a direct impact on the field. I even find myself missing that feeling a little.” 



Dr. Keren Weinshall-Margel


Dr. Weinshall-Margel says that the cooperation between the department and the judges was excellent. “At first the judges had some concerns, but they very soon realized that our studies could help them and could identify problems. They saw that we approached our work without prejudice and with the goal of conducting research. The cooperation was wonderful. We had direct access to the judges and we undertook many interviews and questionnaires with them. It usually takes longer for new bodies to find their feet, but I think that we brought results pretty quickly, and in general the judges appreciated this.” 

The research team included scholars who combined the legal field with another area of knowledge. “We had a great team. I decided that the department should include two researchers, in addition to myself, and it was important to me that they should have an academic background in the social sciences as well as law. Firstly, because of the methodological side of our work, which is studied in greater depth in the social sciences. Apart from that, it was important to me to have a diverse team. One researcher had a degree in law and psychology, while the other had a degree in law and cognition. We also had research assistants who were students combining law with another subject – economics, business administration, political science, and so forth. Most of them were outstanding students from our own Faculty. They collected the data that the researchers and I then analyzed. 

Another study by Dr. Weinshall-Margel that was published recently examines the chances that a criminal prosecution will be successful. “The study began while I was working in the Research Department, and I prepared it together with Professor Oren Gazal-Ayal, an expert in criminal law at the Faculty of Law in the University of Haifa. We wanted to examine the real rates of acquittal and conviction and to see whether conviction rates in Israel are as high as usually assumed (99.9%). After investigation, we found completely different results: between 70% to 85% of conviction rate. From this study we went on to undertake other studies.” 

Dr. Weinshall-Margel is currently working on a study focusing on class action suits, in cooperation with Professor Alon Klement. “We are examining in empirical terms whether the institution of class action suits is effectivein Israel. The Israeli model for class action suits broadly follows the American model, but the implementation of the model in Israel is completely different from the US. For example, in Israel 75 percent of applications to certify class action suits relate to consumer suits, while in the US these account for just 25 percent of suits. We are trying to understand the reasons for the differences, and considering whether the implementation of the class action mechanism realizes its goals in practice. I am also working on a book based on my doctorate thesis, in which I examined the extent to which Supreme Court justices in Israel are influenced by their ideological positions, as distinct from legalistic considerations relating to the application and implementation of the law. The book focuses on an empirical analysis of decisions relating to freedom of religion, political rights, and human rights that conflict with security interests. In another project (together with Professor Ya’acov Ritov and Dr. Udi Zomer), we are comparing the extent to which ideological positions influence the decisions of justices in five supreme courts – in Israel, Canada, India, the US, and the Philippines. The results show that ideological motivations have a much stronger influence on the decisions of supreme court justices in the US, followed by Canada. Israeli and Filipino justices are much less prone to make decisions on the basis of ideological considerations, while in India we found virtually no influence of ideological positions on the justices’ decisions. In the study we attempt to explain the institutional elements that lead to these results – above all the method used for the appointment of justices to the court, as well as factors such as the type of cases, workloads, etc.” 

In the meantime, Dr. Weinshall-Marshall is working on yet more projects. “At any given time I try to work on about four different projects, usually in cooperation with other researchers. I love to cooperate, and empirical projects usually require such cooperation. One reason is that they require a lot of theoretical work, as well as time and resources to collect and analyze data. Another is that these studies combine expertise from different fields of knowledge.” 

How did you get involved in this field of research? 
“There was an argument between my parents. My mother said that I should be an academic researcher in the social sciences, while my father thought that I should become an attorney. So I ended up somewhere in the middle. What I enjoy is research, but it’s important to me that it is connected to the real world and to actual influences and actions. That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to work in the Research Department, and that’s also why I worked for several years as a legal advisor to the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee after completing my internship in the Knesset. Research and practice are often contradictory, but I’ve always tried to combine and balance the two. I’m still not sue that I’ve found the balance.” 

To what extent do you think that legal experts in Israel make use of empirical tools? 
“It varies a lot. If you’d asked me five or ten years ago, I’d have replied that they don’t use these tools at all. In recent years there has been a rapid trend to adopt empirical methodologies in all aspects of law, and there is even a demand for these tools in the case law. I organized a conference about public empirical research together with Professor Barak Medina and Professor Yoav Dotan. The conference included a panel discussion at the Supreme Court to discuss the question whether and how empirical methods can help in the judicial process. The fact that the panel was held, and even more so the fact that most of the Supreme Court justice attended and participated in the event, show the growing importance and contribution of empirical research to the world of law. In my opinion, recognition of the contribution of analysis based on the systematic collection of data is not confined to academic institutions, but is spreading to the field of legal practice. One sign of this is the development of legal search engines. Commercial companies in Israel are working today to create databases in a controversial attempt to explain or predict levels of criminal punishment (“Nevo-Anisha”) or the level of damages (“Nezik-Click.”) 

Lastly, do you have a tip for students who want to engage in research? 
“They should do what they enjoy doing. We have some great students. I’ve taught at several institutions and faculties, and our students are the best.” 

Holocaust and Law

Holocaust and Law


One of the most interesting courses offered at the Faculty of Law is entitled Holocaust and Law, taught by Attorney Aryeh Barnea. We met the lecturer to discuss the fascinating connection between the Holocaust, the law, morality, and the role of the legal expert.

-Yuval Simhi-

“I’m the son of Holocaust survivors,” Attorney Barnea begins. “Of all the subjects I have been involved with over the course of my life, this is the only one that I can’t drop. I work in education out of a sense of mission. I work in law out of a profound interest. But the subject of the Holocaust is always with me and never leaves me. I have written two books and many articles on the subject. As well as teaching the course at the Faculty, I also lecture on the subject in various civilian and military forums. For eight years or so, I served as chairperson of Lapid, a movement that aimed to inculcate the lessons of the Holocaust. For the past eight years, I have served as chairperson of Amcha, which provides psychological and social support for Holocaust survivors.” In addition to teaching the weekly class at the Faculty (in the second semester), Barnea is also a school principal, a lecturer, and an attorney. 

“Even before I began to work as an attorney, it was clear to me that this wouldn’t be the main focus of my life. I only devote a small part of my time to law. For me, law is always a tool – not a goal or a value. I see it as a means for serving human and civil rights, and these rights serve humanistic values, a category that stands above law. Another area of interest for me has always been education. One fine morning I got a telephone call from the Municipality of Jerusalem. They offered me a chance to work as a high school principal, even though I didn’t have a teaching license, let alone any experience running schools. But despite that I decided to take on the challenge. For six years, I was the principle of Denmark School in the Katamonim neighborhood, which was slated for closure at the time. The school not only survived, but we won municipal and national education prizes. 

 Over the previous decade, Barnea was principal of the Herzliya Gymnasium in Tel Aviv. He now works as principle of the regional high school in Be’er Tuvia. “I’m very glad to say that I have a chance to put my beliefs into practice there. This is a school that accepts every student and provides scholarships for all those in need. No student is left outside the academic framework for financial reasons. We have over 20 different academic and vocational tracks.” From time to time, Attorney Barnea also engages in legal practice. “Every few months someone thinks of me and asks me to write a contract or serve as an arbitrator. Apart from that, I draw on my legal education in my work as a school principal when I deal with the school constitution, contracts with suppliers, and so forth.” 


  Attorney Aryeh Barnea

 Attorney Barnea explains how the idea of the course was born: “I met with Professor Alex Stein, who was the deputy dean at the time and was a classmate of mine from the Faculty of Law. I mentioned that it seemed to me that the Faculty didn’t have a clear policy regarding the connection between law and history, and I illustrated the point by referring to the most important subject for me. Alex suggested that I teach a course on the connection between Holocaust and law. Professor Mordechai Kremnitzer, who was a teaching assistance in our penal law class years before, came to listen to a lecture. I chose a subject from the field of criminal law that would interest him and since then – 15 years ago – I have been teaching the course.” 

Attorney Barnea explains that his main goal as the lecturer in the course is to influence the students’ worldview. “Apart from my personal satisfaction, the main point of the course is the connection between historical, legal, and value-based issues. I also enjoy maintaining a connection to the Faculty, both for nostalgic reasons and because many of the lecturers taught me or studied together with me. I think our Faculty is an excellent institution.” 

When asked about the interface between Holocaust and law, Attorney Barnea discusses the case of the trial of Israel Kasztner: a criminal libel case that was heard in accordance with the decision of the attorney general after Kasztner was accused of aiding the Nazis. “Today MK Merav Michaeli, who is Kasztner's granddaughter, called me and we discussed libel law as she is due to give a lecture on the subject. Libel law in Israel changed dramatically following the Kasztner trial. This is an example of a case in which a legal ruling reflected a new value-based approach. After the trial, for example, Attorney General Chaim Cohen ordered that no more indictments should be served against Jews whose names had been mentioned as ostensible collaborators with the Nazis. Kasztner had not actually been indicted, but in the wake of the affair Chaim Cohen (who was also the prosecutor in part of the trial) reached the conclusion that Israel’s Nazi and Nazi Collaborators Punishment Law was not intended to apply to Jewish collaborators but to those from other nations. The Jews were the victims, and you can’t judge them.” 

Another story that illustrated the moral questions that law raises in the context of the Holocaust concerns German legal experts. “In 1942, German legal experts serving in the Ministry of Justice in Germany complained that the murder of Jews was not formally defined in legislation. They weren’t bothered by the murder itself, but they wanted things to be properly organized… They went to see their minister, and the minister met with Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, who received jurisdictional authority over all the Jews under German rule and influence. The slaughter continued under the new legal arrangement. This is a thought-provoking story. Must a decision be moral before it can be professional? Must the law itself be moral? These are the issues we discuss in the course. The hero of the film Mephisto is an actor who is often invited by the Nazis to perform for them. The actor had been opposed to the Nazis, but he enjoys the honor the regime grants him. His friends are appalled by his behavior, but he claims that he is “just an actor” with no connection to morality. A lawyer cannot seriously make the same argument: you are never just a lawyer. By virtue of being a lawyer, you serve certain values, and if you do not do so, you will bear the consequences. The shock we experience as the result of our exposure to the Nazi period should influence our lives.” 

Another issue the course discusses is that of the prosecution of Nazis. For example, how should we respond to the claims raised by Eichmann’s attorney that his client had been apprehended contrary to the laws of the country in which he was resident, so that the subsequent legal proceeding was improper? Eichmann’s attorney also claimed that the legality of the trial was marred by double retroactivity: Not only was the law on account of which Eichmann was tried enacted after the actions attributed to him were committed, but it was passed by a state that was not even in existence at the time the acts were committed. “The court rejected both arguments. On the former aspect, it determined – on the basis of extensive international case law – that the question of the violation of the laws of the third country in which the defendant was captured does not affect the authority of the Israeli court. The relevant question is whether, once he reached Israel’s jurisdiction, he was treated properly, as was indeed the case. As for the second argument, the court established that the content of the Nazi and Nazi Collaborators Punishment Law is declarative in nature. All the principles in the law, such as the prohibition against murder, are well known and well established. Eichmann was aware of these prohibitions and could reasonably have anticipated that if the regime changed in his country, the Nazi leaders would be prosecuted. In other words, it is reasonable to assume that he anticipated such a punishment. The fact that it was Israel that prosecuted him, rather than another country, makes no difference. Even if Israel had been established the day before, it was merely applying well-established principles in a declarative manner. In this context, Israel argued that in the wake of the Second World War, the balance between the principle of sovereignty and the principle of rights should be changed. In some instances, it is justified to intervene in the affairs of a state that is grossly violating human rights. The problem is that today this legal change is being used against us…” 

A further issue raised in the course that was also raised in the Eichmann trial concerns the limits of obedience. “Eichmann said that all people are supposed to obey the law, and even more so a soldier or policeman. In my opinion, the general obligation of obedience is the result of agreement with the values and regime of the state. A humanist and democrat should observe the laws of a democratic state even if he disagrees with them, because the norm of lawlessness is more dangerous to these values and this regime than an immoral law. Of course, it is right to act by legal means to change the bad law. In Israel, the Declaration of Independence defines our values, and our regime is democratic. If I were convinced beyond all reasonable doubt that Israel is no longer a Jewish state or a democratic state, I would consider revolting against it and against its laws. I prefer to grind my teeth and accept bad laws rather than encourage the collapse of the system and much greater damage to my values. Accordingly, I will obey any order that is not grossly unlawful. The situation is different in the case of an undemocratic regime, where the possibility that the regime might collapse is of no concern to me. To return to the German soldier: if he is a humanist, he cannot accept the values of the state as they are. Clearly he must not vote for Hitler or volunteer to take part in the crimes committed by the Nazi state. If he is brave enough, he should act to encourage the collapse of the Nazi regime.” 

What current-day legal issues are relevant to Holocaust survivors? 
“Firstly, the prosecution of Nazis. There are very few Nazi criminals left alive today, and they are dealt with, to a varying degree, by the authorities in the countries in which they live. For two generations, the State of Israel has concentrated instead on tracking anti-Israeli activity around the world – in some cases activity that is connected to modern-day anti-Semitism. 

“Secondly, the Israeli Ministry of Welfare states that some 180,000 Holocaust survivors are living in Israel. Every four minutes, one of them dies. My parents, for example, are no longer with us. Other criteria for defining survivors put the figure as high as 300,000. Many survivors died without being aware of their rights and without receiving care; the state’s excuse is that they did not contact the relevant bodies. In Amcha we help any Holocaust survivor and offer therapy, social and rehabilitation clubs, and home visits by volunteers. We help 18,000 survivors on a regular basis. Although the number of survivors in Israel is falling, the number of requests for our help is rising, because as the survivors get older, memories flood them and people are often left alone and in need of help. I think it’s a shame that we have only started to pay attention to the rights of various groups of Holocaust survivors since Olmert’s government. What worries me is this: if we can’t be fully empathetic toward people who have suffered more than anyone else, then who will we show compassion for? I’m worried about the attitude of the state and society toward other disadvantaged groups, because if we’ve failed the test when it comes to Holocaust survivors, maybe we are too hard-hearted. That’s one of the reasons why in Amcha we try to help any survivor who turns for us to help – as a broader message to society.” 

Lastly, what differences do you see between your work as a university lecturer and your role as a school principal? 
“There’s a very big difference. The age gap between school and university is very significant. University students are much more serious – you can’t expect that from 16-year-olds. Students join the course on a voluntary basis, and that influences their motivation and the quality of discussions. Apart from that, not everyone is accepted to study law at the Hebrew University. The standard of discussion can be very high, which is a real intellectual pleasure. The thing that makes me happiest is to hear feedback from students at the end of the course saying that it has influenced the way they see the world – even in the case of students in their forties. The personal stories that emerge during the discussions are often moving and make the course a meaningful experience for me, too.” 

Law and Social Work - An Unlikely Match?

Law and Social Work – An Unlikely Match?


Of all the interesting combinations offered by the Faculty of Law, the joint degree with social work is particularly intriguing. Despite the real differences between the two disciplines, students taking the joint program explain that the two distinct worldviews are actually complementary.

-Yuval Simhi-

“I went to court with a woman who had suffered serious violence from her partner. An attorney had been appointed for her by the state, and since she was nervous about the process and its outcome she asked him to explain what would happen. He was very impatient with her and told her that she would just have to go into court and see what happens. I could tell that he was unable to understand the ramifications of the trial for her life, and it was clear that she needed encouragement and support.” This incident was related by Hodaya Moshel, a fourth-year student who is studying a combined degree in social work and law, when I asked her what connection she sees between the two departments. 

At first glance, law and social work might seem to be far removed from each other, demanding a different education and training. Despite this, a unique program offered by the Faculty of Law combines the two fields, offering a fascinating perspective for both lawyers and social workers. “Many of the students in the program will tell you that the two fields complement each other. Each of these subjects seems very incomplete when it stands on its own,” says Noa Baruch, a second-year student in the program. “In my opinion, law touches on every area of life. Wherever you look, in every field and subject, in every job and institution, you can find law. It is always a very important tool. Social work is also a field that is present in all strata of life.”

Lena Romanovsky is another second-year student in the program. “The connection is obvious once you focus in and start to pay attention. But it’s easy to ignore it. In every social work class, there comes a moment when I think to myself ‘that’s why you need to study law, too.’ The stories students tell about the different places where they undergo training show how much they need the broader and different understanding that is provided by the world of law.” 

 The combined degree in social work and law is considered one of the most demanding and prestigious programs offered by the Faculty of Law. Students in the program are required to gain 209 credit points over four years. They must also undertake practical work as required by the Social Work Department and meet the various obligations for a law degree. While the students enjoy a diverse, interesting, and enriching experience, they also face considerable pressure. “The main way we cope with the pressure is through mutual help,” Lena explains. “We try to pool our strengths and cooperate. We’d be happy if there were a special program to provide more scholarships for students who combine social work and law. That would prove that people recognize the importance of legal training in social work, on the one hand, and of providing legal experts with a social perspective, on the other.” Noa adds: “You have to prioritize. Many of us find it difficult to cope with our very crowded timetable.”

Tell us about an average week in the life of a student in the combined social work and law program 
“We have five long days of classes each week. We are studying two degrees simultaneously,” Lena emphasizes. The students in the program come to university every day in order to complete around 60 credit points each year. “It’s very hectic. Even in the fourth year I’m still studying five days a week. It’s a tough program,” Hodaya confesses. 

Why did you choose this combination? 
Noa: “In the army I was an officer responsible for working with injured soldiers, and it was obvious to me that I’d go on to study social work after I completed my service. When I began to find out more about the profession and the subject, I felt that something was missing. It seemed to me that law could be a very effective and important tool to combine with social work. So basically I came to law studies based on the idea of being a social worker who had an additional tool.” By contrast, Lena’s first area of interest was law. “In the army I worked as an officer responsible for soldiers’ conditions of service. I didn’t like the social workers I met in the course of my work and was convinced that I wouldn’t study that field. But I wanted to study something that would be a tool for social action, and I felt that law met the definition. Later I felt that law wasn’t enough itself, and I looked for a field to combine it with. I considered lots of programs, but none of them felt right. Eventually I discovered the combination with social work. At this point I was still sure that there was no way that I was going to be a social worker, but the combination seemed to fit. As I progressed in my studies my attitude changed, and now I see myself as belonging much more to the field of social work than law.”


Hodaya Moshel



Lena Romanovsky



Noa Baruch


Hodaya came to the combined course for similar reasons. “I wanted to study something that would provide a social perspective, and I knew that law by itself wouldn’t meet this focus. During my national service I worked as an instructor with a 12th-grade class in a youth village. One of the students was being abused by her father and the social worker told me that there was nothing she could do about it, because the girl wasn’t a minor any more. The social worker couldn’t manage to explain to the girl what she could do to protect herself. At that moment I felt that social workers don’t have tools they could pass on to their clients to help empower them, and that’s why I decided to combine this field with law.” 

What advantage does the program offer? 
“I think it’s fair to say that anyone who completed this program gets a very special perspective that will stay with them for life. The combination of these two fields creates a very broad and enriching kind of training,” says Noa. Hodaya elaborates on her point: “I don’t just think about how to treat a client or how to provide them with legal assistance, but how to combine the two. In the future, I hope that I’ll be able to find a field or job that combines law and social work, with all that implies.” 

Noa says that a few days earlier, she and Lena submitted their forms for the practical training component in social work, which they will begin next year. “I think they try to find areas in social work that have a connection to law, but as I see it the two fields are connected in every area.” Hodaya began her practical training last year and says that she has managed to find the connection. “I was placed in the Adult Probation Service. I had a 20-year-old client who had committed an offense just after he turned 18. As I worked with him over the course of the year, I realized that this was his first offense. In legal terms it was a gray area, because he hadn’t committed a serious offense. But the conviction had ruined his life. He wasn’t in any kind of framework. He had been working as a security guard, and after his conviction he was forced to leave his job. I didn’t think that the conviction was fair, so I contacted the legal clinics at the Faculty, and they helped me to file an application with the court. The application was accepted and his conviction was deleted. I think in this case I was really able to touch the seam line between the two fields.” Hodaya adds that there are other practical training placements in social work that combine very successfully with law. One example is the field of public housing. 

It seems that these two fields have more in common than they have apart, and the combination of law and social work is becoming increasing popular. One can only hope that the field will continue to develop and to attract students. 

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants


A former state comptroller, a retired judge, and a recipient of the Israel Prize find themselves together in the same place. This is a daily occurrence in the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University. Leading and influential figures from the Israeli legal world effectively established the Faculty and continue to come here to teach and engage in research. 

-Yuval Simhi- 

If you’ve walked along the corridor by the dean’s office and the lecturers’ rooms, you must have noticed the photographs of leading lights from the Israeli legal world: retired judges, recipients of the Israel Prize, Israeli ambassadors to the United Nations, and other emeritus faculty members who have filled important positions in Israeli society in general, and in the Israeli legal system in particular. 

Faculty Dean Professor Yuval Shany explains that the idea behind displaying the photographs is to preserve the Faculty’s heritage. “In recent years, we have made an effort to develop the heritage of the Faculty. Of course, we were the first law faculty in Israel and we are still the leading faculty. But we have another important asset: the students and teachers who studied and taught here have gone on to shape the Israeli legal system and to fill the most important positions.” 


The “Emeritus Faculty Row” is just part of a broader heritage project that will also include an exhibition about the history of the Faculty, an exhibition of Supreme Court justices who have been involved in the life of the Faculty, and so forth. “The Emeritus Faculty Row will help us to remember these figures. As time progresses and we move further away from the Faculty’s founding years, it’s important to us that the younger generation of students who are currently attending the Faculty – and even more so those who will come here in the future – be aware of our heritage and appreciate that they form a link in a long chain of jurists who have studied and taught here.” 

To this day, the founders of the Faculty continue to play an integral and important part in research, teaching, and Faculty life. “Our relationship with the older emeriti is very warm,” Professor Shany explains. “Even though they have retired, we see them as part of the Faculty family and part of our team of researchers. We are very proud that many emeriti who have retired in recent years continue to teach at the Faculty on a voluntary basis. This is a wonderful resource that gives our young students an opportunity to study with giants such as Professor Gavison, Professor Ben-Menachem, Professor Klein, Professor Libson, Professor Shetreet, Professor Gilad, Professor Kretzmer, and many other distinguished names.” 


Professor Ruth Lapidoth


Professor Ruth Lapidoth, a recipient of the Israel Prize for legal research, is one of Israel’s most senior legal experts. She graduated in the first class of students to complete their studies at the Faculty and remembers the early days, when the classes were held in halls at Ratisbonne monastery in downtown Jerusalem. 

The change in the location of the Faculty is by no means the only change that Professor Lapidoth has seen over the years. “The biggest change is the faculty and the range of options open to students. When we studied in the first class, most of the courses were taughtby external teachers, many of whom were judges. They were good teachers, but this wasn’t their main occupation. Now we have teachers who are themselves graduates of the Faculty and people whose main field is academic work, and this is much better for the students.” Professor Lapidoth also commented on the options now open to students. “Back in our time, most of the program consisted of compulsory courses, with just a few elective courses. It was very hard to get approval to combine law studies with another department. For example, I wanted to study international relations. I asked the dean for permission, and his reply was, ‘You’d be better off spending your time watching theatre or movies.’ And that’s what I did. Today there is a wide range of elective courses, and this really benefits the students. Another change is that the Faculty now provides programs in English, which I believe broadens the students’ minds.” 

Professor Lapidoth also comments on a difference between the students in the early classes and those who come to the Faculty today. “My class had a difficult demographic profile. It was just after the War of Independence. Some of the students had been injured during the war and most of them were older than today’s intake. The composition of the student population was challenging. I think things are a bit simpler these days, and this makes life easier for the students and the lecturers.” 

On the other hand, Professor Lapidoth reveals that in at least two ways, the students of her time were just like their contemporary peers: their sense of humor and their fear of snowstorms in Jerusalem. “I remember that one lecturer was really boring, and the students brought in a chicken and put it on his desk. It wasn’t exactly polite... Another amusing incident involved a lecturer who came from England and whose Hebrew was rather poor. Instead of referring to a British judge who sat at the head of the panel, the lecturer told us that the judge had sat on the head. I remember that the same year there was a heavy snowstorm and some students were afraid to come to class. But this same lecturer, who was already over 80 years old, turned up like clockwork.” 

Professor Lapidoth brings up another memory concerning the obligation to come to class. “In those days, the student had to get the teacher to sign their register at the beginning and end of each semester. We had one very young lecturer who taught us an introductory course in economics. At the end of term, one student who had forgotten to get the lecturer to sign his register went to the lecturer’s home. The professor opened the door and the student looked at him and asked to speak to his father. That showed just how many times he had been in class.” So perhaps yesteryear’s students weren’t so different, after all. 

Professor Lapidoth emphasizes that she still maintains a close relationship with the Faculty. “I come in three or four times a week, because I am undertaking research work. I still ‘live’ here and feel part of the Faculty. The deans, the administrative staff, and my colleagues all make me feel very welcome here.” Professor Lapidoth adds that she has seen a change in recent years: “I get the feeling that at our Faculty it’s really fashionable these days to undertake research into theoretical subjects. That’s all well and good, and it certainly hones the mind, but law isn’t philosophy. It’s a practical discipline. I’d suggest that the teachers would do well not to belittle practical aspects.” 

“The Faculty” also recently interviewed Professor Joshua Weisman, another recipient of the Israel Prize for legal research and one of Faculty’s veteran teachers. In the interview we asked Professor Weisman to comment on two questions: What do you think has changed at the Faculty since your day? And where would you like to see the Faculty in the near and distant future? Professor Weisman replied that in the early days, the Faculty saw its main purpose as the developing of Israeli law. This has changed over time, and the focus has increasingly shifted to the external field. Signs of this include the reluctance of legal researchers to investigate Israeli law, the adoption of the American tendency to the theorization of law, a research focus on issues likely to interest the editors of American legal journals, and the displacement of Hebrew by English in writing and discourse. The Faculty has also adopted the American practice of charging students with the task of editing its legal journal. This practice is unusual in the academic world outside the United States, and even there it is not common practice in academic disciplines other than law. On the other, American legal education has had a positive influence in terms of the way the Faculty manages its affairs in various areas. 

See here for Professor Weisman’s full answers to the questions  


Professor Joshua Weisman



-Yuval Shoham-


Name: Betty Tegegn


Age: 19


Year: 1


The facts: Betty was born in Ethiopia and came to Israel at the age of three. She is studying at the Faculty in the academic reserves; after completing her studies, she will serve in the Military Advocate General’s Corps. “I know that when people look at me, they usually assume that my behavior is typical of the entire Ethiopian community. So I try to do everything as well as possible so that I make a good impression,” Betty admits. “When I arrived at the Faculty, it surprised me that I was the only Ethiopian in my year. I was a bit shocked and disappointed, but it also encouraged me to work hard, as if I have to prove everything by myself. I was also the only Ethiopian student in my elementary school and I had first-hand experience with people who were prejudiced even as small children. But it gave me a very firm and strong foundation in life.”



Why law? “One thing that encouraged me to study law was my experience as an Ethiopian Israeli. For example, I remember that on the day of the Ethiopian demonstration in Tel Aviv, I was watching reports on television, because I am a volunteer in the Civil Guard and I’m not allowed to participate in demonstrations. It was driving me crazy not to be there. An Ethiopian guy was speaking and started to list all the difficulties he has faced. I could really relate to what he was saying, and after a while I started crying. I haven’t experienced discrimination personally, but when the struggle started you realize that if you haven’t, then your neighbor or family have experienced inequality. When I was in high school I imagined that the Members of Knesset sit down seriously, work out their opinions, debate, and consult with experts. When I realized how things really work I told myself the law is a great platform for changing things, for righting social wrongs from the root. By the way, I wrote my end-of-year paper on the subject of affirmative action, which I strongly oppose. Instead of dealing with the root of the problem, that just sweeps things under the carpet.” 


A second hearing“Despite her heavy study schedule, Betty manages to find time to volunteer and get involved in a range of activities. “I volunteer in the Breira Center and the local claims court, and I work in the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, which is active in the field of Israeli outreach, human rights, and help for disadvantaged populations. I mainly undertake research for the outreach work – collecting materials, writing, and translating. I’m also active in the university debating club. When it was my turn to speak, I went up to the podium and started shouting at everyone. I serve as the Faculty representative to the general student union, I’m a police volunteer, and I work as an instructor in a school as part of the Social Entrepreneurship project.




Name: Chen Feder


Age: 25


Year: 2


The facts: Chen, who comes from Haifa originally and lives in the French Hill neighborhood of Jerusalem, took part in a student exchange with the University of Toronto in August. He is currently working in the Yossi Havilio law firm, which specializes in public law. “In one of our cases, we are trying to save Nachman Square in Nahalat Shiva from a private developer who is trying to seize control of the area and hold performances there without taking into consideration that harm that will be caused to the neighbors,” Chen explains.




Why law? “I served as an officer in the Artillery Corps during my military service, because I wanted to give as much as I could. I tried to think of a way to do something meaningful after the army, and I realized that the best way was to study law. I think the Faculty gives us lots of tools we can use in the future to help people, and enables us to look at things from a different angle.”


A second hearingChen volunteers in a special project to provide free legal aid for Jerusalem residents. He says that he heard about the project soon after it began. “When I arrived at the Faculty, I heard about the project from someone who had just graduated. At that point the project wasn’t really able to get off the ground. I contacted Attorney Yossi Havilio, who I now work for and who was the project coordinator at the time, and we planned ways to get it moving. Now the project works with three attorneys who come for a few hours once every two weeks to meet residents of Jerusalem and provide them with free legal aid in all fields, except criminal and family law. My job is to receive requests for assistance, refer them to the appropriate attorney, and later contact the residents and make sure that things worked out. For example, I recently had a case of a woman who had been dismissed without receiving compensation. We wrote a letter to the employer and he paid what was due. Some of our cases eventually lead to lawsuits. For example, many residents have complained about a serious shortage of parking places close to the new Arena stadium. We decided to submit a court petition obliging the municipality to allocate additional parking places.





Name: Yael Sheffer


Age: 22


Year: 2


The facts: Yael began to study law at the University of Haifa, but after her first year she transferred to the Hebrew University. “I was in Thailand when I got the results of my psychometric examination and I was a bit disappointed,” she recalls. “I decided to apply for university just to see whether they would accept me. The registration period in Jerusalem had already ended, so I applied to the University of Haifa, where I lived. I really enjoyed my studies there, but I decided to move because I wanted to live away from home for a while, and also because the Faculty in Jerusalem is considered the best in Israel.” Yael is also active in the student wing of Meretz. She expects to work in the public sector in the future, but she also admits that “I’m one of those students who will get to interview week without really knowing what they want to do.”  



Why law? Yael says that she was always attracted to law: “I watched Law & Order from the age of five. Before I began to study law, I saw it as a tool for social and political change, and these are definitely the areas that attracted me to the world of law.” After two years of law studies, Yael now understands that the picture isn’t quite so rosy: “I’ve found out that there are lots of things in law that actually prevent change and perpetuate the status quo. I think that the more significant changes are created outside the field of law.” Yael adds that the legal knowledge she has acquired helps her in her political activities: “Meretz is strongly committed to promoting human rights and democratic principles, and my law studies definitely help me to understand these areas more fully.” 


An additional hearing: “In the 10th grade I participated in the Seeds of Peace program, which is a one-month summer camp in Maine (in the US) attended by Jewish, Palestinian, Egyptian, Jordanian, and American youth. It’s a classic American summer camp – you take part in activities and camp out together. But once a day we all met for one and a half hours of political discussion. We talked about key issues and tried to learn to understand the other side. The camp was a very powerful experience for me and had a strong influence on my political opinions. Most young people are taught to have a very one-sided view, and university is the first time that they encounter alternative political narratives. I was exposed to this at a younger age, partly through the summer camp, and that’s shaped the way I think. Once you see the ‘enemy’ as a human being, rather than an amorphous and abstract character, the way you understand the conflict changes. Of course some of my friends maintained their right-wing views after the program, but I think they also have a better understanding of the other side now.”


Name: Avital Keltz


Age: 18


Year: 2


The facts:Avital was born in Paris, France and came to Israel when she was in the 6th grade. She has lived in Jerusalem with her family since they arrived in Israel. In August she will be taking time out from her studies to join the army, and after two years she will come back and begin her third year. “Actually I didn’t want to move to Israel. I didn’t know anyone here and I don’t have family here. Fortunately I could speak fluent Hebrew because I went to a Jewish school in France, so I settled in relatively quickly.”



Why law? “After I finished high school I couldn’t join the army, because I was still too young, so I went to work for a law firm, because I knew that I wanted to work in that field. Even in France I used to tell everyone that I wanted to be a lawyer and a judge. I always liked debates and discussions, and in particular I liked to win the debate – to be the one who presents the best arguments. I remember that I used to count how many French fries I had got compared to my brothers and how many times each of us had to set the table. I always had a drive for justice.”


An additional hearing: Avital was only 17 when she arrived at the Faculty, but she soon managed to make friends with students who are several years older than her. “It was a bit weird at first. Everyone around me at the Faculty has already been in the army and they talk about it, so in a way it feels as if I’ve already done it too, and I’m going there again.”

The Faculty Then and Now

The Faculty Then and Now


-Prof. Joshua Weisman -

 Question: What do you think has changed at the Faculty since your day? 

I’ll mention a few changes that have occurred at the Faculty over the years. Some of the changes I’ll mention are welcome. As for the other kind of changes, it may well be that these only seem to me to be less welcome because of nostalgia and the tendency to long for the past, even when the past wasn’t so wonderful. 

The first generation of teachers at the Faculty was very diverse. I don’t think I had two teachers at the Faculty whose legal training was in the same country. The teachers who taught me received legal training in Italy, Austria, France, Belgium, England, and the United States. Naturally this influenced the content of the studies. We were exposed to comparative law in a very clear way back then, and that left a mark on the students who later became teachers at the Faculty. The comparative approach was second nature for many of them. 

Today, by contrast, when the whole world is subject of the influence of “globalization,” the Faculty has decided to confine itself to “Americanization.” Most of today’s teachers received their legal training for advanced degrees at universities in the United States. Naturally this has a strong influence on the subjects of the studies undertaken by the Faculty teachers today and on the teaching they provide. 

During the early years of the Faculty, its principal interest was the development of law in Israel. Teaching and research focused on Israeli law during this period. The Faculty’s Institute for Legislative Studies and Comparative Law received requests from the Ministry of Justice and other government departments to help prepare laws on various subjects. A team of researchers from diverse legal backgrounds worked at the Institute and focused mainly on comparative research regarding these proposed laws. 


Professor Joshua Weisman

During this period, Faculty teachers were often invited to lecture at training days for judges, and the Faculty’s publications from the period include several booklets of lectures given by Faculty teachers at such training courses. 

In preparing Faculty students for advanced degrees, the Faculty attempted in the past to encourage them to concentrate on Israeli-Jewish legal culture. Professor Tedeschi, for example, who was one of the pillars of the Faculty during its founding years, suggested that the Faculty council require students for doctorate degrees to pass an examination in Hebrew Law. His proposal recognized the fact that Hebrew law constitutes a central component of our cultural and legal tradition. 

Similarly, Professor Avigdor Levontin, a prominent teacher at the Faculty since its establishment, proposed that outstanding students beginning doctorate studies undertake their studies in Israel, rather than abroad, in order to ensure that their research subjects address Israeli law. He proposed that the important stage of exposure to overseas academia take place in the framework of post-doctorate training courses. 

Although these proposals did not enjoy universal approval at the time, they reflect the prevailing Zeitgeist. Back then, the Faculty saw its purpose as the development of Israeli law, and it concentrated most of its efforts in this direction. Over the years a change occurred in this respect and the focus of attention shifted outward. This is reflected in the fact that the Faculty effectively encourages students to undertake their doctorate studies abroad, and particularly at universities in the United States. The significant loss this entails in terms of research into Israeli law hardly needs to be explained. The important doctorate studies by the Faculty’s students are devoted to topics of interest to American law, rather than Israeli law. 

If the phenomenon of the Americanization of legal research were confined to the topics of doctorate theses, its damage would be limited. However, the Americanization of legal education in Israel has had far wider ramifications. Legal scholars in Israel tend to choose topics for their studies that are likely to appeal to the editorial boards of American law journals, and needless to say these boards have no particular interest in articles addressing Israeli law. 

The phenomenon of the reluctance of legal scholars to examine the law of their own country has reached an extreme in Israel that is exceptional in the world of legal research. 

This phenomenon has been discussed by Professor Oren Gazal-Ayal of the University of Haifa in his article “Comments on the Past and Future of the Economic Analysis of Israeli Law (published in Mechkarei Mishpat, Vol. 23 (2007), 661 (in Hebrew)), and by Professor Haim Zandberg of the College of Management Academic Studies (who also teaches frequently at the Faculty in Jerusalem) in his article “Cultural Colonialism: The Americanization of Law Education in Israel” (published in Hamishpat, 27 (2009), 52 (in Hebrew)). The following sentence, taken from Professor Gazal-Eyal’s article, expresses in a nutshell the anomalous situation in which we now find ourselves: 

“Law is still an essentially local discipline, and so it is perceived in most of the developed countries of the world… The [Israeli] academic system distances scholars more than anywhere else in the world from addressing domestic law.” (Ibid., 683) 

This anomalous situation is reflected in numerous ways in the life of the Faculty. In the past, for example, the Faculty would invite guests from leading positions in the Israeli law system to discuss topical issues and problems. The guests included the president of the Supreme Court, the attorney general, the state attorney, the justice minister, and so forth. Today, in most cases, the guests invited by the Faculty are law professors from the United States, who tell us about legal issues on the agenda of American society. 

Due to the federal character of the United States, and the legal differences between its various states, American law faculties that seek to function as national institutions generally avoid discussion of the law of any particular state. Instead, they focus in teaching and research on general and theoretical issues that are common to all the states. The study of the specific law of individual states is left to professional schools that provide the aspects not covered by university law studies after the students have graduated. 

Israel has adopted the American tendency to the theoreticization of law and the avoidance of national law, even though some of the considerations that explain this trend in the United States do not apply to Israel (the federative structure, as noted above). In the past, following the enactment of important laws or major court rulings, teachers from the Faculty would publish articles in Israeli law journals explaining, analyzing, and criticizing the relevant developments. This does not usually happen these days. In the past, the law journals regularly included columns such as “Case Law Comments” or “On the Sidelines of Legislation.” Such columns no longer form a regular part of contemporary law journals. 

This alienation in teaching and research from the legal system that applies in this country is a phenomenon that is unparalleled at law faculties in any other country, with the exception of the United States. 

Another recent development that is also the product of the adoption of the American model for legal research is the impact on writing and discourse at the Faculty itself. These increasingly take place in English, displacing the Hebrew language. Thus, for example, invitations to lectures at department seminars, workshops, and other Faculty activities routinely present the titles of the lectures in English only – even when the lecturer is an Israeli Faculty member, the audience consists solely of Israelis, and the lecture itself is given in Hebrew. In “War and Peace,” Tolstoy offers an ironic depiction of the fashion among the Russian intelligentsia of his day to pride themselves on their use of French, and to pepper their speech with French phrases, whether these were needed or not. Where is our own Tolstoy who could speak out against this English deluge?! 

The practice of charging students with the task of editing academic journals is not common at universities in the United States in fields other than law. For example, it is not accepted practice in journals in the fields of philosophy, medicine, or mathematics. This practice is certainly not accepted in the wider academic world: we will not find it at the top universities in Paris, Oxford or London, where it is understood that the task of editing requires professional specialization and experience. 

It may be that when Israeli academics adopted the unusual American model in this respect, they failed to give due attention to an important distinction between law students in the US and their Israeli peers. In the United States, law is a postgraduate field. In other words, students entering an American law faculty already hold an academic degree. In Israel, by contrast, the formal educational background of most law students is confined to their high school matriculation certificate. 

I will conclude my comments about our Faculty then and now by mentioning some innovations we have adopted from the American model that have not provoked disagreement and objections. For example, the curriculum originally included a large number of compulsory subjects. Under the influence of the American model, many of these subjects are now elective. Another decision, taken during the early days of the Faculty, was to adopt the principle of anonymity in examinations. This was probably also a product of American influence, and this principle was later adopted by the other faculties at the university. Lastly, the placement system, which helps students find internships, is clearly a welcome imitation of the system used at law faculties in the United States. 

To sum up: Over the years, our Faculty has managed to become one of the best “faculties of American law” in the United States. The challenge it faces is how not to allow this achievement to come at the expense of its character as the best Israeli law faculty.

Theater and Law

Theater and Law


For a decade the Faculty of Law has offered a unique workshop addressing the interface between law and theater. To an outside observer the two fields might seem to have little in common, but those who have experienced their common aspects report that the connection is evident and even intuitive.

-Yuval Simhi-

“We established the workshop 10 years ago,” begins Professor Hanina Ben Menachem, the founder of the program. “I thought of the idea after spending time at Harvard Law School as a visiting Professor. Some of my brightest and hardest-working students there participated in a theater workshop and I was very impressed by the idea. When I first suggested this idea here in Jerusalem, the senior echelon at the Faculty wasn’t very enthusiastic at first, but I didn’t give up. I waited for some personnel changes and eventually the idea was accepted. I have to admit that we had to struggle for the first few years. But the present dean is supportive, and I think that the theater workshop has become an honorary citizen at the Faculty. I hope this will continue to be the case in the future.” 

The first play staged by the workshop 10 years ago, called “Peeking,” dealt with the subject of trafficking in women. “Many of the participants in the first workshop were women students who were also working in a legal clinic focusing on prostitution. The students told me that they couldn’t relate to the women they worked with at the clinic. That changed after they took part in the play, because they had to put themselves in these women’s shoes. After the play the students told me that their attitudes had changed and they could understand the women now. As I see it, every attorney has to put themselves in someone else’s shoes whenever they appear in the court. The trick is to identify with the other person, but not totally. We don’t want someone who plays the part of a criminal to identify so much that they adopt a criminal lifestyle. The actor has to understand the balance between identification on the one hand and maintaining a distance on the other. These are skills that can be practiced in the theater,” Professor Ben Menachem explains. 

If we stopped someone on the street and asked them whether there is any connection between law and theater, they might well have a hard time thinking of any points of contact. “The legal field has a serious image, whereas the theater is perceived as part of the world of entertainment and fun. But I don’t think that’s really true. A trial is basically a play that unfolds before us. There are also deeper philosophical connections between the model called the theater and the model called the trial. The workshop exposes the students to these connections, and I think this helps them become more sensitive lawyers and human beings and to understand the other side. You can read and hear about the other, but there’s nothing like playing the role of the other.” 


Professor Hanina Ben Menachem

 Professor Ben Menachem says that every year the students who participate in the workshop rate it as one of their best and most enriching experiences during their studies. They do so despite the fact that the workshop demands a lot of time and energy relative to other courses. “In the past, some people in the Faculty weren’t sure that we could award academic credit for the workshop. After all, it doesn’t include lectures, exercises, exams, and so forth. But we need to remember that there are different formats for academic study that can enrich and expand knowledge. Although this learning doesn’t use the routine method, it is surely no less enriching and nurturing. I think it’s a pity that the workshop is a one-year project – it should be a three-year track.” 

At the beginning of June, the Faculty hosted its first international conference on the subject of law and theater. Professor Ben Menachem hopes that the field will continue to develop: “I think the Faculty should develop this field as an academic discipline in its own right, with its center here at the Faculty. Perhaps lecturers at the Faculty could also take part in the workshop alongside the students. The more the Faculty expands the concept of law, the more interesting a place we will be, and the more attractive and fascinating. Law isn’t just about the articles in the legal code, or law and economics, but also about law and culture in the broad sense of the term.” 

The workshop was intensive, including weekly sessions as well as numerous rehearsals toward the end of the year. The participants report that it was an enriching and enjoyable experience. “During the first semester, we performed basic exercises – acting training exercises, improvisation, movement, and so on,” says Rimon Rafaeli, a participant in the workshop. “We also discussed the interface between the theater and law: we had to take court rulings from the criminal field and build the character of the defendant. We wrote monologues for the defendant, tried to understand his feelings, and really got under his skin. In the second semester we began to work on our play. We looked for material and edited the script. I think this experience and acting skills have really helped me to identify with the other. In the final analysis, as an attorney you represent a given individual, and you should develop an ability to identify with any client, whoever they are.” 

Tamar Ventura, another participant in the workshop, highlights the difference between the workshop experience and other courses at the Faculty. “In our regular studies we use our minds rather than our emotions. In the theater, the emphasis is on working on emotions and doing what feels right, rather than what you’re supposed to do. Our work on the play included an adaptation of The Stranger. We read the play, discussed its message, and asked ourselves what we wanted to convey. After a brainstorming session, we began to write and adapt the scenes. We went over each scene and decided what statements needed to be included, what important messages we wanted to convey, and what act or event we wanted to make happen on the stage.” 

Under the direction of Bentzi Faber and Shlomit Cohen-Skali, and with the assistance of the Cohen Wilchik law firm, the group staged the play “Mother Died Today,” based on “The Stranger” by Albert Camus. “The play tells the story of a guy called Marceau, who killed a man,” Tamar explains. “The story also touches on Marceau’s private life – his late mother and his friendship with his pimp neighbor and with his girlfriend Marie. The audience got the impression that during Marceau’s trial the focus was less on the crime he committed and more on his character. The decision in the trial seems to be made more on the basis of the person than on the act he committed.” Tamar confesses that she did not have an intuitive grasp of the connection between theater and law when she began the workshop. “I thought the workshop would be a hands-on experience and break up my routine. That’s why I signed up for it. It was only at the end of the year, when I played the role of Marceau, that I understood the amazing connection between these two worlds. I found it difficult to get into the character and to understand what he was feeling in thinking and how I was supposed to convey that to the audience. I had to undergo a process with this character, and during the course of my work I suddenly thought of a sentence I had heard in one of my classes in the Introduction to Law course. In the class we were discussing the Emanuel case (when a Haredi local authority segregated Ashkenazi and Sephardi students in girls’ schools). The initial instinct of the students was to declare that the segregation was unacceptable, but the teacher asked us to think about it from a different angle: to try to see it from the standpoint of those who we felt had acted improperly and to put ourselves in their shoes. Suddenly, during the rehearsals, I realized what it means to put yourself in someone else’s place. I think this is something that helps us as lawyers. If I want to represent someone, I need to acknowledge that they are not a unidimensional character. They didn’t just ‘breach the contract.’ It’s much more complex than that. Once I manage to understand the individual’s feelings and perceptions, I’ll be able to understand their actions and represent them better. This is also relevant in the context of legal questions such as the clash between interests and rights. In order to create discourse and dialogue with the other, I think that we first and foremost have to put ourselves in their shoes. The workshop focused exactly on this point.”