Another part of our day on Thursday was thinking about the law and law schools.  On Monday evening, we had heard from Cochav Elykam-Levy, who is the chair of the civil commission on the war crimes committed by Hamas against women and children.  (And, while we were still in Israel, she was awarded the Israel Prize for her work.)

Student Maya Baker reflected:

Cochav Elykam-Levy, a feminist legal expert advocating for international recognition of sexual crimes on October 7, found herself entrenched in a circumstance familiar to survivors of sexual violence – begging to be believed. In her begging to be believed, Cochav has archived strong eyewitness testimony, photos and videos of naked or partially naked victims, and videos of the sexual mutilation of men, women, and children. Where the victims of sexual violence didn’t live to become survivors proclaiming “me too,” Cochav has used research to substantiate claims of sexual violence where they had been refuted or denied.

After being ignored by the international community at large, Cochav reached out to individual states to review her research and recognize the atrocities on October 7. It was not until Joe Biden responded and condemned the crimes against women and children, that the UN recognized her calls to action and conducted an investigation. The UN’s investigation, finally conducted in late January through mid February, confirmed Cochav’s contentions that atrocities of a sexual nature were committed on October 7. Rape culture, a social environment that allows sexual violence to be normalized and justified, reveals itself in the international community with the large-scale denial, willful ignorance, and dismissal of sexual violence on October 7.

In returning to think about the role of law schools in Israel in the face of the conflict, we spent Thursday morning with Professor Michal Alberstein, the dean of Bar-Ilan University’s law school in Tel Aviv.  Miki, as readers of the blog might recall, used to run the conflict resolution program at Bar-Ilan and is a well-known conflict researcher.  As often happens in the US, skilled conflict resolution practitioners can be tapped for law school administration and so I was looking forward to Miki’s reflections about the school and how her job has shifted.

Student Andrea Shahrabani described the meeting and also noted the difference with law students in Israel versus the US.

On the concluding day of our journey, we had the privilege of meeting Professor Michal Alberstein, the Dean of Bar Ilan University Law School, during a breakfast session. Her insights into the accommodations provided for students of all religious backgrounds at the Law School underscored Israel’s profound commitment to religious freedom within its institutions.

Professor Alberstein also shared poignant reflections on the impact of the tragic events of October 7th, revealing the profound effect it had on the entire nation. The aftermath of October 7th left virtually no one in Israel untouched. Whether individuals had personal connections to those kidnapped or killed, or were called upon to defend their country, the collective grief and loss were palpable. We juxtaposed this shared sense of mourning, which fostered a profound unity among Israelis, with the troubling rise of denial regarding the events of October 7th and the surge in antisemitism seen in American schools.  At Bar Ilan University Law School, students are met with empathy and support as they navigate their collective trauma. Conversely, many Jewish students in America often find themselves grappling with their trauma alone, compounded by the unsettling reality of feeling unsafe on campus due to their identity.

Professor Alberstein also offered her perspective on the role of education in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She emphasized the urgent need for an educational overhaul from an early age on both sides, promoting a more objective and universal understanding. Such a transformation, she argued, would pave the way for new leadership in Palestine and Israel, essential for progress towards lasting peace.