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Bryan Schwartz


By Professor of Law, Dr. Bryan Schwartz, posted here June 15, 2012


Editor's note: This is the second installment of   Prof. Bryan Schwartz's my reports on Mishpatim II, where law school students learn att he Hebrew University of Jerusalem for three weeks. Schwartz's first installment can be accessed at:'S_MISHPATIM_II_LAW_EXCHANGE_PROGRAM    

MISHPATIM II-Second Installment

by Dr. Bryan Schwartz

On May 9, we heard a lecture from Dr. LItal Helman on the legal framework for innovation in Israel. It was a broad introduction to the law of patent, copyright and other formats for the protection of intellectual property, and the advantages and disadvantages of each for the purpose of stimulating creative through a reward system while at the same time promoting public accessibility and benefit. Our students this year are almost all in first year, and have not yet studied intellectual property, so Dr. Helman's lucid introduction to these complex areas of law and policy was highly informative, I believe, for all of them.

Moving from the theoretical to the practical, we visited Izun Pharma in Jerusalem. This start up has been working for over a decade on developing products that will simultaneously address inflammation and infection. They early results show great promise of providing vastly improved treatment for conditions that have so far proved difficult or intractable, such as treating mouth ulcers experienced during chemotherapy or ulcers of the limbs due to diabetes that can eventually result in amputations. The CEO and CFO were able to explain to us the science, the regulatory challenges to approvals, and the legal and financial environment in which they have been operating. When we visited Izun last year, it did not yet have any products available in the commercial mainstream. It now has several, and its most significant products are still to come. It has again proved highly education to actually visit a start up, to speak with the pioneers and risk takers, to have them explain how the general concepts of "Start Up Nation" are realized in the real world.

May 10 marked the first time Mishpatim has included an organized overnight field trip. We began in Haifa, at the Baha'i gardens. The 19 city streets of terraced gardens is a modern wonder of the world. The tour included an explanation of the history of this new religion, from its persecuted origins in Iran to the complete of the gardens in the past decade and its regular programs of conventions for members of the faith throughout the world. The story might be thought of as the tale of a start up religion; about how a faith that now has millions of adherents around the globe began small, survived and persisted despite persecution, and continues today through an amazingly decentralized, organic method of self-governance.

At lunch we heard from the former mayor of a Druze village who is now a lecturer at the University of Tel Aviv. The Druze are a minority throughout the region, and have often been persecuted. Their faith and philosophy includes loyalty to whatever state in which they find themselves. Within Israel, the Druze have in many ways achieved success in many ways. Their youth generally join the army, where they do well, and often remain for long professional careers. They enjoy local democracy at the village level, and participate in national politics - and in many different parties across the political spectrum. Our speaker explained that Druze are becoming more Jewish in many ways - more and more interested in having their sons and daughters become highly trained professionals, and more imbued with chutzpah as they take on the world. At the same time, he stated that full equality and integration is not always achieved in Israeli society. He is grateful for the support that the Druze have received not only from the Israeli government but from Jewish communities in North America in attempting to achieve full social and economic equality within Israel.

Next stop was the Technion, Israel's leading engineering university. We received a presentation on innovation that included some remarkable insights. One of them is that innovation is not synonymous with high tech. A challenge for Israel is how to promote growth in traditional industries, such as manufacturing juice or clothing. Experts at Technion are working with these industries to find new ways to achieve efficiency and growth through improvements in production and distribution processes, and not only in the content of the product itself.

Haifa has always been known for the harmonious relationship of its Jewish and Arab populations. Technion has a population of Arab students that is proportionate to the Arab population in general in Israel, and includes many young Arab women as well as men.

The learning day concluded with a visit to Better Place, which is attempting to revolutionize commuter transport throughout the world.

Better place is producing all-electric cards - not hybrids - for commercial use. It is investing heavily in producing the infrastructure in Israel to permit drivers to easily fuel up, whether through plug-in locations or places where they can exchange their run-down battery for a fully-charged one in less than two minutes. The car is already in use in Denmark as well as having been sold in Israel. Better place is targeting a number of places throughout the world. Many of our students took test drives. It is not know yet whether Better Place will succeed; like many start-ups, it is a big risk with uncertain returns. If it proves commercially viable, its impact may prove enormous. If not, even the lessons learned from failure will be recycled back into the start-up nation and bear fruit in some other way some other time.

On Friday, May 10 we visited workers` hotline in Israel. It is an NG0 dedicated to protecting the rights of all workers, be they Israel Jews or Arabs, recent immigrations or guest workers, Hannah Zohar is the founder, and we had the honour of hearing from her. Part of her focus was on her organization’s tremendous triumph in addressing abuse of guest workers. After the intifadehs made it problematic for Israel to use as much labour from the territories, many guest workers were brought in from faraway places to do work in the construction, agriculture and domestic services sectors. There was a black market run by intermediaries who illegally charged these workers large fees for finding employers. The system also was fraught with oppressive behaviour by employers who exploited the "binding contract" feature of the laws; a guest worker could be deported the moment he or she left the employer of first hire. Hannah`s group fought on many fronts. It brought lawsuits to help individual employees and develop a database of information; it sought out and informed journalists, who began the process of exposing and shaming culprits; it lobbied politicians for changes in the laws. All these efforts bore fruit. Recently, the Supreme Court in Israel struck down the binding contract system. Hannah says due to this and many other reform measures, the situation of guest workers in Israel is now much improved. I am sure the students benefited greatly from hearing about the many different ways an NGO can address a social issue, and play a pivotal role in eventual reform.

In the afternoon, we went on a walking tour of Jaffo, conducted by a doctoral student in land use planning. Jaffo is a beautiful place with some very violent history. There were a number of pogroms against Jewish immigrants at the port in the twentieth century, and in the nineteenth it was the site of a massacre of the local population by Napolèon’s troops. Our guide was able to tell us about some of the impact of land use laws on the city scape - perhaps most remarkable, on the design of a high rise that has very high ceilings in its bottom floors. The architect realized that there was no limit on the height of building, only on the number of stories. Surprised and indignant municipal officials eventually compromised with his desire to have a very tall building by agreeing that he could make the bottom floors very high, but not the top ones.

In the evening we had a shared dinner. I spoke about the historical and spiritual origins of the Sabbath in Jewish tradition, its adopting in Christianity and Islam, and asked the students about the potential impact in modern times of the blurring of time - how we have effectively abolished day and night, days of work and days of rest. Afterwards, Professor Rachelle Alterman, who holds a chair in land use planning at the Technion, gave a brief talk, and then answered student questions for over an hour on all aspects of life and politics in Israel.

After a free day in Tel Aviv, we spent Sunday on a tour of the Supreme Court of Israel. Our HU academic coordinator, Ofer Shinar, spoke about the history and current politics of the court’s role in Israeli society. After many years of being dominated by appointees of left-wing parties, there are now some senior appointees from the right of centre. The early signs are that this will not result in a major retreat by the court from its doctrines, including its orientation towards expansive interpretations of the human rights protecting provisions of the Israeli constitution, and a view that just about everything is justifiable rather than being a mater to be resolved by politicians or military administrators. We heard an excellent talk at noon from a Israeli Arab who is currently clerking the court. The Supreme Court has one permanent member who is an Israeli Arab - and who in fact sat on the appeal from sentence and conviction by former President of Israel Katsav. (The trial judge, incidentally, was a Christian Arab who is a highly respected jurist. It is a remarkable feature of this whole story that the former head of state in Israel could be charged, tried and convicted in Israel, and that no one considered it worthy of comment or complaint that the judges involved included, very prominently, non-Jewish citizens of Israel.)

In the afternoon we visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We heard from analysts of the situations in Syria and Lebanon - both deadlocked situations with unknown but worrisome outcomes - and then a presentation on international law and organizations in connection with Israel’s security situation, including a talk about the flotilla incident and investigations.

This coming week will focus more on human rights and constitutional affairs in Israel, rather than the start-up nation dimension. Our main speakers are returning from last year’s program, so I know their presentations will be first rate.

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