On Sunday, I took my students from Michlelet Orot to the Supreme Court (and Knesset.) (-When you are in Israel for the year, the week of Parshat Mishpatim would certainly seem an appropriate occasion to visit and ponder our modern Israeli legislative house and its highest court! By now, some of you might have gathered that I am all for this type of educational integration.)
Our Tour Guide had been telling us about the workings of the court. As an example she detailed the way that the Supreme Court has dealt with the legality of the Separation Fence. And then as we went in to the courtroom to see an actual case, we found out that it was about the Fence near Modiin Illit. The case was not starting for a while, so we approached one of the lawyers to ask him to speak to our group. His English wasn't good, so he quickly explained to me the bare bones of the case, and gave me a massive map (10ft x 4ft) – part of their evidence, so that I could explain it to my students.
So there I am, brandishing this enormous carboard map, as my students sit in the back two rows of the courtroom, and I explained the case to my students in about 3 minutes flat. As I began talking a group began to crowd around; Arabs and Jews. As I finished, a young Israeli lady spoke up: "I am a Human Rights activist. Let me explain you the Arab side." She articulated her argument concisely and clearly - in perfect English. And then, along in rushed the second lawyer for Modiin. Not wanting to be left out, speaking in faltering English, he explained his arguments! We really felt the case "come alive" and I think it was quite an experience for the students. It was like the news that you hear on TV suddenly became real life.
It was quite something! We had an ad hoc "hearing" right there in the back bench of the courtroom, to 30 students, just 15 minutes before the judges were to walk in!
Somehow, I think that this informality, and this degree of access would have been unlikely in the U.S. or British Supreme Court.
I just love it here!