Mishpatim program life-changing experience

Mishpatim program life-changing experience
Professor Bryan Schwartz says Israel faces many of the same constitutional conundrums that Canada does.
A group of first-year University of Manitoba law students — participating in the Winnipeg chapter of Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s second annual tour of Israel under the Mishpatim program received a different perspective on the law.
For Caroline Reimer, it was a “life-changing experience.”

“It exceeded my expectations,” she says.

Alexandra Miles notes that she found the Mishpatim program to be an invaluable opportunity to get to know a nation’s legal system and in particular, its nascent constitutional framework.

“The program provided a wide variety of experiences that coalesced to demonstrate the unique features of Israeli society,” she says. “We were able to visit the Supreme Court of Israel, test drive electric cars at Better Place [a company whose mission is to bring affordable electric cars to mainstream culture], and hear from a legal adviser to the [Israel Defence Forces’] counter-terrorism division. Each of these experiences, along with many others, presented a different side of Israel and reflected the struggles that the nation faces and the solutions that are being implemented to address those issues.”

Erica Grant spoke of the exposure to a lot of different people and ideas.

“It was really eye-opening,” she says. “There are so many different layers.”

Mishpatim was established last year by University of Manitoba law professor Bryan Schwartz in conjunction with the Winnipeg chapter of the CFHU. The program, he says, includes a general introduction for students into the nature of the Israeli legal system, its constitutional developments and its interaction with public international law.

“Israel,” he says, “has had to face, often at an especially intensive and complicated level, many of the challenges that Canada has had in respecting individual and minority rights in general, and in the particular context of addressing security threats, including terrorism.

“We are hoping that the lessons learned will give Canadian students much to think about in terms of lessons to be emulated or avoided in addressing some of the comparable problems in Canada — itself a society with traditional peoples, such as First Nations citizens, many newcomers from all over the world, and interested in developing a culture of risk-taking and innovation.”

Last year, Schwartz notes, the group consisted entirely of University of Manitoba law students. This year, the group of 23 also included two Asper School of Business students and three law students from the University of Saskatchewan.

Schwartz and his students left for Israel on May 1. Over three weeks, the students heard lectures about the role of the Supreme Court in Israeli society, the law of patent, copyright, and other formats for the protection of intellectual property in Israel, Jewish, and family law, basic international law, and trade law. They also explored current challenges involving the mix of politics and business in the area of trade relations.

The students also heard from an Israeli terrorism expert, an Arab Israeli clerking at the supreme court and a Druze professor. There were visits to the Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, the Technion, the Baha’i Centre in Haifa, a Jewish Ethiopian absorption centre, and a workers hotline — an NGO dedicated to protecting the rights of all workers, be they Israel Jews or Arabs, recent immigrations or guest workers.

“I believe that Mishpatim II has been ever more successful than our inaugural project,” says Schwartz. “It introduced students in both law and commerce to a wide range of issues that intertwine law, politics, sociology, and economics. Our speakers and material were diverse in perspective.

“The hope is eventually to have a program that has a Manitoba core, but accessible to students across Canada in both law and business.”

Schwartz gave thanks to the organization that supported this second Mishpatim, including Canadian Friends of Hebrew University, the Government of Manitoba, and the law and business schools at U of M.

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