Sept. 14, 2018

Law program in Israel brings understanding to international issues

Three-week seminar provides education on legal system and other local challenges

Author

Ali Abel, Faculty of Law

The Bahai Gardens in Haifa.

The Bahai Gardens in Haifa.

Laura McPhee

When third-year law student Laura McPhee was accepted into the University of Manitoba Faculty of Law-Hebrew University Summer Program: Introduction to Israeli Law and Society, she didn’t know what to expect. Her parents were concerned about her going to an unfamiliar part of the world.

“Israel is a part of the world I knew nothing about, and I knew I would likely never go if it weren’t for this opportunity,” says McPhee. “The people were amazing, it was very safe, and the country is more similar to Canada that you would think.”

McPhee was one of 12 UCalgary Law students to attend the program this past May, an academic partnership between the University of Manitoba law school and Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The three-week seminar gives Canadian business and law students an overview of the contemporary Israeli legal system, and allows students to discover the major social and economic challenges that Israel has grappled with in recent years.

The program gives students the opportunity to learn about Israeli law, which is a quasi-constitutional system, with the perspective of the country’s international relationships, as well as how the government works, counter-terrorism efforts, and the various cultural and religious issues that play a role in the entire system.

The shuk (or market) in Jerusalem.

The shuk (or market) in Jerusalem.

Laura McPhee

“Everything is much more complicated than we think,” says McPhee. “It’s like putting together a puzzle, but there are small shards of each piece missing which makes the whole picture incomplete.”

The experience wasn’t all lectures and off-campus experiences (including the Knesset, the Supreme Court, and the Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum), as students have the opportunity to act as tourists in the region. McPhee and fellow classmates visited Tel Aviv and Haifa, and took four days to explore Jordan, which included tea with some Bedouins.

“We stayed in a desert camp in the middle of Wadi Rum and watched the sunrise, and it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had,” she says.

McPhee would definitely recommend the program to other law students, not only for the learning experience, but also for the shift in thinking that is gained as a result. “I have a better appreciation for the importance of different perspectives. And while I may not value the same things my future clients do, having a better understanding of where they are coming from will make me a better practitioner.”