A trip about the law would not be complete without a visit to the Supreme Court and we were also very happy to fit in a visit to the Knesset (the Parliament ) as well on our second day of the trip.  The comments from Justice Ruth Ronnen about how she decides cases was a master class in conflict management—understanding both sides well before “taking” a side.

Student Caitlin French discussed her talk:

It is a rare opportunity for law students to listen to a judge describe their approach to a new case and their procedure for coming to a decision. Justice Ronnen, newly appointed to Israel’s Supreme Court in 2022, gave us exactly that opportunity. She explained that her methodology stems from a lesson that she learned from a past chief justice of Israel’s Supreme Court during a clerkship in law school. He told her to take an appeal from his docket and learn it front to back—to internalize the arguments and convince herself that the appellant was right. She was then instructed to take the opposition brief and read it thoroughly—to embrace those opposing arguments and to allow herself to be convinced that the appellee was the one with the stronger case. Only then, he claimed, would she be in a position to reach a fair and just decision. Justice Ronnen has carried that lesson with her for decades, and her mentor’s method is still the one she employs with every case, despite an unfathomably full schedule (where the U.S. Supreme Court might hear 100 cases each year, the Israeli Supreme Court hears over 10,000 in three-justice panels). It feels important to highlight this lesson after the week we spent together in Israel. I have heard a multitude of polarized viewpoints in both Israel and the United States and one thing they share is an unwillingness to empathize with, or often even just try to understand, the other side. Not every conflict has the benefit of a neutral arbiter with the power to make a binding decision. That said, I think that if more people practiced the type of dispute resolution model Justice Ronnen described, we would be a lot closer to peace.

Earlier in the day we visited the Knesset, a beautiful building (the picture below is the group in front of the famous Marc Chagall tapestries designed by him for this building.

But I think student Yaffa Solemanzadeh spoke for all of us in noting the most meaningful sight.

The most impactful sight was touring the Plenum Hall, where the proceedings of the Knesset are held. There, in the upper public gallery, on each seat, was a poster with the name and photo of each person taken hostage on October 7th.  This is an indication of how Israel is so unique, in that these people in a crisis will not be forgotten, and no matter the political leanings and views of the members of Knesset, it is a sign to all of them.