The first night we actually get used to the time shift, we are wrenched from our sleep after receiving a 5:30 a.m. wake up call. After hurling the telephone against the wall, we dressed in our Tuesday’s best and made our way down to the bus for an early morning meeting with President Barak, the former chief justice of the Israeli Supreme Court.
After roughly an hour drive from Jerusalem to Herzlia, a town just outside of Tel Aviv, we finally arrived at (Blank) Law School, eager to hear the internationally renowned justice speak. President Barak entered the room. We stood to our feet, sharpened our minds, and settled in for an exhilarating lecture. President Barak was quick to issue incisive commentary, stating that Israel has a “crippled” constitution, yet such a constitution is better than no constitution at all.
Specifically, President Barak indicated that the Israeli Constitution consisted of 11 Chapters, including the basic laws of Israel. To illustrate, in 1992, Israel’s Knesset (legislature) enacted two of the more recent basic laws, including the human right of dignity and the human right to choose and practice a profession. These basic laws are extremely significant because they serve as a wellspring from which several implied rights, such as free speech are derived.
This statement invited multiple interpretations of the constitution. On one hand, there is the notion of loose constructionism, by where the language of the constitution is broadly interpreted and subject to change (a stance that President Barak seemed to favor). Conversely, there is also the potential to label the constitution as vague and ambiguous, requiring further development to cure the inherent defects in such a document. Needless to say, this exchange served as an overwhelming revelation into the myriad potential interpretations of the constitutional language that spark discord.
President Barak continued his commentary on the issues facing the state, describing the development of judicial review and its far-reaching effects, the role of the legislature in curing the defects in judicial opinion, and a series of conversations with President Jimmy Carter.
After an hour lecture, President Barak fielded probing questions from all comers, tackling inquiries ranging from the West Bank to the possible parallels between the Holocaust and Israel’s current treatment of the Palestinians. A group picture concluded our meeting with this giant of the Israeli legal landscape. We made way to the student union to politic with the student body, whose collective gaze towards us piqued our interest. Conversations were had over perhaps the largest (and cheapest) cheese sandwich ever fashioned by man. Digestive supplements were taken, appetite was sated, the bus was found and the road was met.
~ PV Wonder & Rutherford Saxberry