Who am I? Benjamin (“Binny”) Ashkenazi

Age: 27

Year: 3

The facts: Binny began his academic adventure at the College of Administration in Rishon Lezion. He explains that he didn’t have an easy ride: “I have a learning disability and I had to struggle really hard to get here, because my psychometric score is fairly low.” Binny went to the Knesset Education, Culture and Sport Committee and overcame countless obstacles before he achieved his goal of being accepted by the Hebrew University Law Faculty. “From the moment I got to the College of Administration I worked to get the highest possible grades so that I could switch to the university,” he recalls. Although he was rejected the first time he applied, Binny did not give up: “I contacted the rector and the dean of students, and eventually I submitted an appeal to the Evaluation Committee for Learning Disabilities in the Law Faculty,” he explains. Binny’s story had a happy ending: the university eventually accepted him. “Class began on Sunday, and I only heard on Thursday that I had been accepted. 






Shoshi Ben-Amram, the coordinator of undergraduate studies, suddenly called me and told me to come up to Jerusalem so she could prepare a study timetable for me.” Binny stresses that the way he was treated by the Hebrew University was the best of all the universities he applied to. Binny’s main motive for moving was the tuition fee, which is about one-fourth of that in the college, but he has other reasons to be pleased with the change: “The market is saturated and if you want to find a good internship the reputation of the Hebrew University gives you a good start.”

Binny is originally from Jerusalem, so the move was also a homecoming to his natural environment. When we asked him about the difference in the level of studies, Binny replied: “I couldn’t claim that the effort I have to make at the Hebrew University is the same as at the College of Administration. The reading material is similar, but the grade standardization system and the generally stronger starting point of the students in the Hebrew University makes it more demanding here.” Students moving from a college to the Hebrew University might be nervous about how they will settle in, but Binny says that things went smoothly: “People weren’t arrogant: everyone was very friendly and helpful. Sometimes we got into arguments about the differences in the standard of studies, but we always ended it amicably. After all, I’m better placed to make the comparison since I’m familiar with both institutions.”


Why law? “Because I have a learning disability, I knew that I couldn’t go for the sciences,” Binny explains. Binny considered the humanities, but was unsure whether that would provide a decent living. He looked for a related field, and today he declares that he is happy with his choice – “even though I sometimes curse myself when it comes to exam time.”


A second hearing: Binny is participating in a clinic on the rights of people with disabilities and is also working in the Israel Bar’s program “Give and Get,” in which students represent disadvantaged clients in civil cases. “I have been exposed to a very wide range of cases and I’ve met the finest side of the legal profession. I often ask myself whether the law does more good than bad, and through this work I have been pleased to see the good side,” he smiles. Binny explains how he helped a man to reduce his debt significantly. He also helped another man who was on the verge of bankruptcy. “Sometimes you can see that they are simply disorganized, so you sit with them, get things in order and that can be enough to save them. You see good people who find themselves fighting bureaucracy. Even as an upstart undergraduate, you realize how much power you have and how much you can do to help them.”


Who am I? Lior Mizrachi

Age: 26

Year: 3


Why law? Lior is combining her studies of law with social work. This is an unusual combination, but she explains: “For me, social work was a natural choice. Both my parents are social workers who are employed in community centers, so I was following in their footsteps.” She adds that since it was so obvious that she would study social work, she wanted more of a challenge. When she heard about the combined law and social work program she was very excited. “Law is a very important tool for advancing the goals of social work,” she declares. “In that sense, it’s a very logical combination.”




The facts: Lior is not only studying the theoretical aspects of her interesting combination. She is also putting her beliefs into practice in the field, participating in a project of the organization Ma’aglei Tzedek (“Circles of Justice”) called The Gatewatchers. The project works with school security guards in Jerusalem. “The volunteers go to schools an preschools, talk to the guards and give them leaflets explaining their rights,” Lior says. “We also check how they are treated and suggest that they keep a record of the hours they work.” The guards can bring their salary slips to be checked, and the volunteers look for any violations of labor laws. “We find plenty of violations,” Lior says decisively. The goal is to make the guards aware of the possibility of asking the security company to correct violations, and of suing them if they fail to do so. “I was shocked to see how the companies make money at their employees’ expense,” Lior says sadly. “The guards are not usually aware of their rights and don’t know how to fight for them.” This work does not require legal knowledge or expertise in social work, but both fields certainly enhance the project’s effectiveness. Analyzing pay slips requires an understanding of labor law. Although working with people and gaining their trust are partly a function of personality, Lior emphasizes that “I come to these meetings with all that I have learned.”


A second hearing: In her spare time, Lior also works as a professional Pilates instructor. In her first year she started a group in her living room, and she now teaches three groups in her home and two in a studio at the Bank of Israel. In addition to education to healthy living, Lior is also works as a teacher in civics and democracy classes in the Knesset and the courts. Groups of 9th-12th graders participate in guided tours and workshops on such subjects as freedom of expression, the rule of law, Israel’s electoral system, and so forth. “As an instructor, I feel that I can influence young people even in such a short timeframe,” Lior explains. “My main message is that it’s always important to keep up to date, to read the news, and to realize that we can influence things.” Although Lior admits that all her extracurricular activities leave her little time to rest, she says that gets much satisfaction from her areas of involvement.



Who am I? Tom Kovatchy

Age: 25

Year: 2

Why law? “I never considered anything else,” Tom admits. “I always tried to decide what area would enable me to change society,” he declares, adding that he doesn’t imagine that he will work in the private sector. Tom originally comes from Rosh Pina in the far north of Israel, and it was no coincidence that he chose Jerusalem. He claims that of all the Israeli cities that have universities, Jerusalem is the least like a big city. “Here I feel that people live together and not on their own. Unlike Tel Aviv, in Jerusalem people eat Friday night dinner together and there’s a feeling of togetherness.”





The facts: Over the past year, as part of his effort to get to know the university and the city, Tom has worked as a guide in the Faculty’s Orientation Week. The orientation guides accompany new students from the moment they are admitted to the Faculty. During the week before the beginning of the academic year, all the new students come to the Faculty for an intensive three-day orientation program. They tour the campus and the city, including a visit to the Supreme Court. Tom explains that this orientation process helps ensure that the new students have a soft landing. “We work with the freshmen from the stage when they have to decide where to live through to questions about combining law with another field or what bus to take. We even give them a recipe for meatballs,” he laughs. Each guide is responsible for approximately 35 students, and the process does not end in Orientation Week. “We help them with all kinds of things in the Faculty, including how to study, how to read rulings and how to start writing essays.”

We asked Tom what skills make a good orientation guide: “The main thing is to be sensitive to others’ needs,” he states. “I don’t think you necessarily have to be the best student. It really doesn’t matter what grade you got in your contract law paper. You need a lot of patience and perseverance.” Tom describes the tremendous sense of satisfaction he gets from this involvement, and even claims that he would be willing to do it for free. “About a year and a half after the orientation, students still come to ask my advice. When I manage to solve a problem I feel really great.” Tom apparently willing to confine his involvement to the orientation program, as he also decided to join a program that helps students for whom Hebrew is a foreign language. “As a Hebrew speaker the first year was hard enough for me, so I could only imagine how hard it would be for someone whose mother tongue isn’t Hebrew,” he explains.


A second hearing: Ask any of Tom’s friends about him and the first thing you’ll hear is that he’s a passionate fan of Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer team. “When I was four years old,” he recalls, “I asked my father what team we supported. Since then I’ve traveled from Rosh Pina and Jerusalem to every match.” But Tom isn’t just a regular fan on the stands. He is active in the “Emblem Brothers” project, an association of people who met at the team’s matches. “A few guys decided they wanted to do more than just watch matches together,” Tom explains. “At Rosh Hashanah they collected donations for the needy, Holocaust survivors and hostels for people at risk.” The project has distributed blankets in winter and collected food parcels before Passover. Anyone is welcome to join in the activities, even if they aren’t a fan of Maccabi Tel Aviv. “I guess it builds a sense of solidarity, because when we meet at matches there’s something special about it,” Tom concludes.


Who am I? Avigail Leonarons

Age: 22

Year: 2

The facts: Avigail, a native Jerusalemite, is studying law and political science, but still finds time to be very active in the sports. This year, for example, she participated in the Jerusalem Marathon for the second time, and she even encouraged some of her friends from the Faculty to join her.

Why law? “I always found law interesting but I was afraid that maybe it was just a way to make money from other people’s troubles. Then I met a lawyer who worked in an American association and represents children and battered women. I realized that I could use law studies as a tool for fighting for justice.” Avigail is combing her law studies with a bachelor’s degree in political science. “I wanted to learn something else, too,” she recalls. What about plans for the future? “I don’t know exactly where I see myself, but I’m pretty sure it will be in the public sector.”






A second hearing: Avigail was an avid sportswoman before she started university. “I’ve played sport for as long as I can remember. In the past I danced and played basketball. Today my main field if cycling. I ride to university even in the rainy Jerusalem winter. I don’t think I’ve used the bus more than a dozen times all year. Even when I start to work as an attorney I hope that I’ll find time to ride to court, just as I ride now to the district court as part of my volunteering at the Breira Center.”

What about running? “I try to run twice a week, and even more often when I’m preparing for examinations, because you can’t just sit and study all day. For me, running is the greatest pleasure of the exam period. I get up in the morning and decide that I’m going to study until a set time and then go running. It helps to break the day up into different sections.” Avigail participated in the marathon this year for the second time. “My family and I trying to establish a tradition of running together in the marathon,” she explains. “We did the 10-kilometer run together – my sister and brother and me. There’s a great atmosphere in the marathon – it’s fun to see so many people coming together to engage in sport.”