Who am I? Sarah Almo

Age: 23

Year: 1

The facts: Sarah immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia with her mother in 1991 and moved to Kiryat Malachi. “My mother died when I was seventeen and a half, but before she died she signed a form agreeing that I be drafted early to the army, since I had skipped a grade in school.” Sarah served as a manpower officer in the Central Command in Jerusalem, and at the same time worked with youth at risk in Kiryat Malachi. After completing a preparatory course at Tel Aviv University, she came to the Hebrew University to study law.





“I’m one of those people who know from a very early age what they want to do. I knew I was going to study and become an officer. I joined the army and didn’t claim the special conditions I could have demanded. I was a very challenging period; I learned a lot and enjoyed every minute of it,” Sarah says with a smile. Like many first-year students, Sarah is still finding her feet in the Faculty. “In my immediate surroundings I am very dominant, but here I feel a bit lost. If my girlfriends from school could see me now they say ‘What’s happened to you? Have you started taking Ritalin?!” she jokes. Sarah admits that because of her ethnicity she “stands out among the crowd,” and when she turns up for a class, people notice immediately. “The fact that I’m Ethiopian is something I’ve only really started to feel at university, simply because in Israel’s peripheral regions there are more Ethiopians. Apart from that, I don’t feel any difference. I was raised by my mother, who grew up in the city. That’s different from Ethiopians who were born in the country,” she explains.


Why law? Sarah took part in a project called Accessibility to Higher Education in the Negev – a three-year program in which school students can take courses at Ben Gurion University. “I took a course in law and I simply fell in love,” Sarah recalls. She describes her sense of outrage at seeing Chinese laborers sleeping in factories, and hearing stories from illiterate women who do not receive any explanation from their physician about the treatments they are supposed to take. “Over the years I’ve been exposed to more than a few injustices in Israeli society. I realized that people who do not know the laws or the way the bureaucracy works are abused in a cynical and shocking way,” she adds.


A second hearing: Jerusalem Day is also the memorial day for the Ethiopian Jews who died in Sudan as they tried to reach Israel. “In 1984, approximately 12,000 Ethiopian Jews began to walk from Ethiopia to Sudan. About 8,000 survived and reached Israel, but over 4,000 died on the way,” Sarah relates. Together with three other students, Sarah privately organized a memorial ceremony at the university. “It was very moving, and I hope it will become a tradition and that more students will take part.”


Who am I? Jessica Weintraub

Age: 24

Year: Master’s program


The facts: Jessica’s mother was born in Belgium and her father in Israel. Jessica came to Israel to study in the master’s program in the Faculty, and she is now specializing in intellectual property and law and technology. “I’m half Israeli, and when I’m in Israel I feel very Israeli. I’m living in Jerusalem, even though I really wanted to live in Tel Aviv,” she admits. In the final analysis Jessica is happy with her decision to move to Jerusalem: “It’s a very attractive city with lots going on. People here are very friendly.”






Why law? Jessica studied for her bachelor’s degree in Brussels, Belgium, and decided to continue her studies at the Faculty of Law in the Hebrew University. “This is a university that has a very good reputation and is ranked among the top 100 institutions in the world. Apart from that, Israel produces a very large number of patents, which is an area I’m interested in. So for me it was a good deal to study and live here,” she explains. Jessica has no trouble identifying the differences between the study methods in Brussels and Israel. “Things are more practical here. There are lots of assignments to submit and all the time you have to convince people of your own position. In Brussels you just show up to class and listen. Here you have to work every day.” Nevertheless, the hard work demanded in Israel has a good side. “Compared to Brussels, there aren’t so many examinations at the end of the year, and you aren’t flooded with information that you didn’t study over the year,” she notes. As for her Israeli fellow students: “People here are more mature and they find it easier to participate and present their arguments. Sometimes I feel that I have less experience and fewer ideas,” Jessica confesses. Since she came from the Continental legal system, she can also identify the differences in this respect. “In Brussels, when I need to study a court ruling it’s usually quite simple, and we examine it just in order to illustrate what we learned in class. Here it’s the most important aspect and you have to think more – the law doesn’t include everything, and court rulings always change some aspects.”


A second hearing: While she was studying in Brussels, Jessica used to come to Israel to volunteer on kibbutz during the vacations. “I went to kibbutz to chill out. It’s like Club Med – you don’t really know what’s going on the outside world,” Jessica comments. “Eventually I decided to move to Jerusalem, because I wanted to have a taste of real Israeli life.” The festivals were the time when she felt this most strongly: “It’s a really warm feeling. I never celebrated the festivals in Belgium, but here everyone does it, so you want to join in and you never feel alone. Even if you don’t have any family to celebrate with, people invite you over.” Jessica was in Israel during Operation Pillar of Defense. She recalls that when her friends from Belgium used to ask her about the security situation, she explained that compared to what they were seeing on television people weren’t that stressed. “The first time the sirens sounded I was nervous,” she admits, “but the second time I was calm just like everyone else. You get used to it.”


Who am I? Yaacov Gorovoy

Age: 25

Year: 2


The facts: Yaacov is originally from Ramle and now lives in the French Hill neighborhood of Jerusalem. Whatever he does, he likes to do it well. Although he had dreamed of studying law since he was a young boy, he came to the studies through a roundabout and competitive course.


Why law? “At first I tried to study computer science, but I couldn’t stand it. I wanted to do something where you enter the office through the front door, not in the back. Whenever I used to look at myself and wonder if I’d be an astronaut or a poet, it always came back to the same point: becoming a lawyer.



I got it from the television serials – I wanted to be like the characters who strike a real pose, make a speech, and everyone applauds and wipes away a tear. Later I found out that I’m good at that, too, or at least better than I was in the other things I tried out. I find the studies at the Faculty much more interesting than I expected.”

A second hearing: Computer science wasn’t Yaacov’s first port of call. Before that he was an outstanding sportsman in two fields – judo and soccer. “Actually, my own career in judo was overshadowed by that of my brother, who was more successful than I was. I started when I was six because it seemed a really cool sport – people throwing each other over. I started to train regularly, and by the age of 12 I had won the Israeli championship for my age group, and then I won the Israeli champion of champions cup. But when I reached the age of 14 I realized that my brother was better than me, and he was invited to join the Israeli national squad. I decided to quit and find my own niche where I could be the best. That’s why I started to play soccer. I played as a goalkeeper and was accepted by the Bnai Yehuda youth team. I played twice in the winter tournament which was held in Israel at the time. I played against Poland and Romania and I only let in one goal.” Yaacov might well have gone on to a fine career in soccer if it hadn’t been for an injury to his collarbone when he was 17 that put him out of action. “The rehabilitation process was very slow. The accident happened at a crucial stage when you have to apply for ‘outstanding sportsman’ status from the army and I did not make it. Today I’m not really up to form as a soccer player, although I still play in the neighborhood league in Jerusalem.”



Who am I? David Shapira

Age: 47

Year: 2


The facts: David is hardly the typical student. While most students come to the Faculty after the army, David is nearly 50 and his law degree is merely the latest stage in a long academic career. Most of David’s relatives died in the Holocaust, and at the age of 18 he immigrated to Israel from France. He served in the army and studied in yeshiva. At the age of 32 he began to study in the university, and by 40 he completed his doctorate degree. After undertaking postgraduate research in the field of anti-Semitism and working in France as an emissary for two years, he came back to Israel to realize an old dream: studying law at the Hebrew University.




Why law? “When you write a study on a historical subject, you need a thorough understanding of the social, economic, psychological, and legal background of the surrounding society or the subject of your research. We have come to see that law plays a dominant role in the historical narrative of peoples. For example, a legal error and failure such as the Dreyfus affair accelerated the process that led Herzl to found the Zionist movement.” David is probably the oldest student in his year class, and this sometimes presents a challenge. “My classmates are not just young people, but very gifted young people,” he explains. “They are quicker than average. That’s a real challenge, but it’s also very refreshing to make friends with them. I am absolutely convinced that this friendship will continue even after we complete our studies.”


A second hearing: David was forced to miss several weeks of the second semester for an unusual reason: he stood as a candidate in the French parliamentary elections. “A year ago, French citizens living outside France were allowed for the first time to stand for parliament. The French citizens living in Israel belong to District 8, together with Italy, Turkey, Greece and Cyprus. At first I was the only Israeli candidate and I thought I had some chance of winning. Unfortunately, as time went on, a large number of independents joined the race, splitting the vote. We were unable to unite behind a single candidate, although I declared several times during the campaign that I was willing to withdraw if they decided to support another Israeli candidate. Although I wasn’t elected, I am grateful for this unique opportunity. We established an elections headquarters, website and Facebook page, and we put up posters and toured the grassroots.” What about his studies: “I explained my plans to the lecturers and asked them to take these into account when setting deadlines for papers. They agreed. Now I’m filling in the gaps in my studies, but it isn’t too bad. It’s hard to stop someone who’s determined and motivated to achieve something.”