Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Professor Marianne Artusio - May 28-30



On the road again! We were up early, bleary-eyed again to board the bus and find our way back to Delhi. The morning was beautiful, warm and clear, but not many of us saw the dawn sky because as soon as most of us hit the bus seat, we were fast asleep again. The countryside had the same drowsy, Indian timeless aura, with animal huts plastered with drying dung patties and water buffalo wallowing in the streams. Here’s a picture of some of them.


We arrived back at our hotel and met the rest of our group, so now there were 26 of us ready to visit Parliament. We were told to bring nothing but our passports and that security would be tight. Well, we were frisked and went through a metal detector, but no one checked our passports, so maybe Parliament knows and trusts Touro by now or security isn't as tight as advertised. The Parliament is a huge, round building (sort of shaped like a drum or a big doughnut) with a large garden in the center "hole". It was built by the British in the early 20th century and has a ponderous feel. After the bombings in Parliament a number of years ago, public visits to Parliament were curtailed, so our invitation to tour the building and meet with officials has always been a special privilege. We were ushered into a large conference room where every seat had a microphone, and we introduced ourselves to a room full of Parliamentary officials. They treated us like we were visiting dignitaries, patiently answered our questions, explained how the Parliament works and then hosted a lovely reception, with Indian delicacies, tiny delicate sandwiches and an elaborate cake. Why we deserve such gracious treatment I don’t know, but Indian hospitality is practically limitless and it was on display. So the world’s largest democracy pampered our small, not-very-important group. The Parliament chambers were huge, dignified and very old - the patina of time and weighty decisions hung about every room. The only modernity that we could see was the electronic voting system. We tried an experimental vote, but most of us had some difficulty mastering the sequence of button clicks to register our vote, so we flopped, sorry to say and the government of India did not get to learn how we voted on the important question of whether we were enjoying our trip to India. Most moving of all was the Joint chamber where both houses of Parliament meet together. It was in this chamber at midnight on August 15, 1947 that Indian independence was declared in a famous and magnificent speech by Nehru. To be in the same spot where Indian independence began and the fulfillment of Gandhi’s campaigns of non-violent protest was realized - well, it was intensely stirring.

The next morning, again, we rose with the dawn and boarded our bus. The trip to Shimla was long, uneventful and blessedly shorter than we anticipated. We drove through the agricultural fields of Harayana, past fields of all sorts of crops and huge chicken barns. Strange, for a mostly vegetarian country, this part of India produces huge numbers of chickens. Finally we got to the hills and then our journey began its winding, switchback, bumpy, jolting progress up into the Himalayan foothills. Arriving at Shimla at night is magical - the lights of the city glow in a rainbow of colors and spill down the hillside, like a cascade of gems. You just catch your breath when Shimla first comes into view. The air is cooler here, the pines are tall and straight and the mountain views stunning. So, a bit bedraggled we were met at our hotel by warm and friendly faces and a large buffet that was waiting for us. Again, the hotel entrance was fronted by a magnometer, spoiling the hotel’s traditional entry. We are so well treated by our hotel staff here in Shimla- it feels like visiting an over-indulgent friend.

Sunday was a day to rest, unpack, explore the city and prepare for classes. So explore we did and most came back with armloads of great bargains. It was the beginning of serious, heavy-duty shopping that never seems to end in Shimla. Our opening reception featured a talk by the Director General of Police for the state of Himachal Pradesh (a good person to know). What a resume! Trisha started to read it and then gave up - it was too long. He had degrees in German, business, physics, yoga and others that I can’t remember. We peppered him with questions, especially our students from India, who pressed him on many points, especially police corruption and disregard of rules, so it was a good discussion.

All of Shimla seems spruced up for our visit. The Gaity Theater has been restored and is now presenting performances and entertainment. It was a theater for musicals and other performances during the British Raj when the British decamped to Shimla to escapee the heat of the plains. But it had crumbled from neglect in recent decades and has been in some state of restoration for the last few years. Now it is glowing. There musts have been a big sale on lavender paint, because it seems that half of Shimla is newly painted with it. The police barracks is a lovely shade of pale lavender, with a bright green roof, and many homes sport this lively shade as well. The YMCA has been painted a bright, clear red, so the building on the hillside can be spotted from miles away. Houses are pale apricot, with electric pink trim or deep blue with traditional red roofs - this has become a very colorful place.

By Professor Marianne Artusio, Touro Law Summer Abroad Program in India 2010

Monday, June 28, 2010

John Nicodemo - From Prussia With Love



Since the moment I arrived in this extraordinary city of Berlin, a city which heretofore was unknown to this well-traveled tourist, I have been intending to contribute to this blog. My wish was to recount the story of my experience in this country which is both steeped in culture and stigmatized by the dark period that was the twentieth century.

But, I put off writing about my life over the past month for a number of reasons. I was quite busy with my studies, I wanted to visit the historic sites, I needed to sample the beer, I availed myself of the many museums, I needed to sample the beer, I traveled to other countries, I needed to sample the beer...okay, I think you get it. Joking aside, in order to give the reader a good idea of my experience here in Germany, I first had to have an experience here in Germany. Now that the summer abroad program is nearing its end, I can honestly say that I have had an incredible four weeks. I would really like to share.

I have never been to Berlin before. Quite frankly, I did not know what to expect. Here is a city within a country that, until 20 years ago, was divided by cultural, economic and political differences made clear by a 12-foot wall separating the eastern and western sections. I was surprised to find a Berlin that is like a phoenix rising from the ashes. New construction sites are everywhere. Areas of the city that, a short time ago, were falling apart from years of neglect, are now trendy districts reminiscent of the villages of Manhattan.

Berlin's TV tower rises above Alexanderplatz at night.

Yet, despite its attempts at Westernization, the Berlin of today is a noble city that reminds its citizens and its visitors about its regretful past. Whether visiting the Mitte area with its juxtaposition of tourist-centric Checkpoint Charlie and the quiet solemnity of the Jewish Holocaust Memorial or traveling to the area of Grunewald where the condemned were taken by train to their deaths in the camps, Berlin wants the world to remember what took place. It is a city that is not afraid to show its scars, and the scars that were left on the world. Imagine standing atop Hitler’s bunker while a German tour guide holds nothing back in his description of the actions of the despicable mad man. These people seem to be begging for the world’s forgiveness while they themselves are healing.

The Ampelmann, a relic from the former East Berlin, lets pedestrians know when it's safe to cross the street.

All this culture and moving history was, of course, a complement to the reason for traveling abroad: to study. Mediation and International Human Rights are the two classes I took. Because I am earning four credits from a Judicial Clerkship, I was only able to take two two-credit courses. A majority of the students also took International Criminal Law and Comparative Constitutional Law.

I had the absolute pleasure of experiencing a class in Mediation taught by the dynamic Barbara Swartz, a woman whose fan club I am now the president of. Her class was interesting, insightful, and fun...yes, fun! She is warm, inviting, and extremely intelligent, and she cares deeply for her students. I felt as though I were in good hands here in Berlin with Professor Swartz at the helm.

Judge Robert Levy instructed the class in International Human Rights. I must admit that the idea of a Federal Judge with a vast experience in human rights issues helming the class was a bit intimidating at first. Then, I got to know the judge. Not only is he one of the most welcoming people I have ever met, but I also believe I have learned more in the short two weeks under his tutelage than many have in an entire semester. He has a style that allows a student to want to learn. Clerking under him would be a dream job for a new attorney...uh, did you hear that, judge?

Finally, I want to mention my classmates. I find it fascinating that, in a matter of a month, a group of people met and formed bonds that will not soon be broken. Some of the people are schoolmates whom I already knew and counted as friends. Some are schoolmates whom I recognized from school but never actually met. Some are people from other schools who were completely unfamiliar to me. One month changed all that. These people, all future attorneys who will be practicing out in the world with me, are now my friends. Perhaps my greatest experience of the entire summer abroad program was the opportunity to widen my circle of friends. These men and women are now part of my family, and having known them has made me a better man.

Thank You, Touro, for a fascinating experience.

By John Nicodemo, Student, Touro Law Center Summer Abroad Program in Germany 2010

Professor Rodger Citron - A Visit From Justice Gabriel Bach



My course on “Selected Political Trials in Israel” this summer focused on two trials. The first, known as the Kastner trial, was a criminal libel trial involving the author of a pamphlet that made defamatory statements about Rudolf Kastner, an Israeli government official who had been involved in negotiations with the Nazis near the end of World War II in order to save Hungarian Jews from extermination. The pamphlet criticized Kastner for collaborating with the Nazis. Although the trial did not attract much attention when it began, it became a central political event in Israel. Because the author of the pamphlet insisted that the statements were truthful, the trial effectively put Kastner on trial and concluded with the trial court judge excoriating Kastner for having sold his soul to the devil. (The trial court later was reversed on appeal.)

The second trial was the more well-known trial of Adolf Eichmann, which occurred from 1960 through 1962. For Israel, the symbolic value of conducting a trial of a former Nazi official responsible for the death of millions of Jews during World War II was enormous – and not without controversy. (Eichmann was convicted of many but not all of the criminal charges against him and sentenced to death by hanging; he is the only criminal defendant to have been executed in Israel’s history.) The most (in)famous account of the trial was rendered by Hannah Arendt in her book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.

The high point of the course came during the second week of class, when former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Gabriel Bach met with the students in class and then continued the discussion over lunch in the cafeteria. I had met Justice Bach once before and knew that he had been one of the three prosecutors who tried the case against Eichmann. I did not know, until he told me before class, that he had worked on the government’s brief to the Supreme Court in the Kastner case. (In Justice Bach’s view, the trial court judge was shocked and offended by Kastner’s conduct, which led to his exoneration of the defendant on nearly all of the charges.) We could not have a more relevant speaker for the class.

Israel 2010 participants gather with Justice Bach in the courtyard of the Agron Guest House in Jerusalem (photo courtesy of Sergey Korolev - Touro Law Center)

Over the course of an hour, Justice Bach shared some of his life story with us as well as a number of interesting anecdotes about the Eichmann trial. He was born in Germany in 1927, left with his family in 1938 to go to Holland, and then they departed for Palestine in 1940 shortly before Germany invaded Holland. After studying law school in England, he returned to Israel and embarked upon a long and interesting career in the State Attorney’s Office before becoming a justice on the Supreme Court.

After Eichmann was abducted from Argentina and taken to Israel, Bach coordinated the pretrial investigation of the defendant. Bach rejects the notion that Eichmann was a mere bureaucrat following orders. He noted that, for example, it was Eichmann’s idea to have Jews detained in Auschwitz, a concentration camp, send post cards to family members and friends saying that the camp was enjoyable and that they should join them. Justice Bach also recounted several stories that illustrated Eichmann’s commitment to exterminating Jews – despite requests or orders made by other high-ranking Nazis to save certain Jews, including, in one instance, an arrangement made by Adolf Hitler to maintain a neutral position toward a number of Jews in Budapest, Hungary.

Perhaps the most interesting remarks by Justice Bach concerned Hannah Arendt and her book about the trial. Eichmann in Jerusalem is controversial for, among other reasons, its contention that the only legitimate purpose of the trial was to determine the defendant’s guilt or innocence (hence the testimony of many of the Holocaust victims was irrelevant and should have been excluded) and its apparently somewhat sympathetic depiction of the defendant. To be sure, Arendt was convinced that Eichmann was guilty of at least aiding and abetting the murder of millions of Jews and that he deserved to be executed for his crimes. Nevertheless, Arendt seems most interested in Eichmann as a representation of a new form of evil – bureaucratic evil in the modern age of totalitarianism.

According to Justice Bach, Arendt declined an invitation to meet with the prosecutors before the trial and never did meet with them. Bach nevertheless insisted that she be provided with copies of documents and evidence introduced during the course of the trial. During our meeting, Justice Bach said that Arendt willfully misrepresented certain aspects of the trial – including critical exchanges during the trial testimony – in order to support the thesis of her book. His comments were of great interest and became the centerpiece of class the next day.

The discussion focused on the following question: If Justice Bach is correct that Arendt intentionally misinterpreted the facts of the trial, is her theory about the “banality of evil” in the modern age still valid? The students responded in a number of ways, all interesting; all plausible. Personally, I cannot avoid feeling as if Justice Bach had successfully directed a wrecking ball at Arendt’s theory: Eichmann’s knowing and intentional efforts to exterminate Jews during World War II confirm rather than supplant traditional notions of good and evil.

By Professor Rodger Citron, Touro Law Summer Abroad Program in Israel 2010

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Brian Elliott - A Tort Waiting To Happen



I couldn't resist.

Below is a picture of a button that is present on the doors of the U-bahn trains in Berlin. Before the trains come to a complete stop the buttons light up green. This indicates that they can be pressed, thus opening the door. That is - opening the door while the train is still moving. This becomes a game to U-bahn riders who see how soon they can step out onto the platform before the train comes to a complete halt. Of course, my law school-infected brain sees this as a tort just waiting to happen. Although I figure there has to be an assumption of risk defense in play.


By Brian Elliott, Student, Touro Law Summer Abroad Program in Germany 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Brian Elliott - What Makes Berlin Stand Amongst the Rest of Europe



What makes Berlin stand out to me in comparison to every where else in Europe is the fact that the city is truly the nexus of two major events in 20th century European history - the Second World War and the subsequent rise of the Iron Curtain in the East.

Nowadays, Berliners seemingly make little effort to mask either dark chapter. One tour that should be considered essential to any visitor of the city is a trip to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp just to the north of Berlin. What made the biggest impression upon me when I visited was just how easy it would be for Germans to simply raze this awful site to the ground and pretend that the atrocities that took place here never happened. But instead, there is a sense here that it is more honorable to wear one's history on their sleeve, regardless of how reprehensible the past might be. There is an important lesson to be learned through understanding that a place like Sachsenhausen exists, because people who do visit these places gain an understanding that the events of the Second World War and the Holocaust must never happen again.

The words "Arbeit Macht Frei" (loosely translated to Work will make you free) would greet prisoners brought to Sachsenhausen during its time of operation from 1936-45.

Another more out of the way, but no less chilling of Germany's darkest chapter in history can be seen at the Grunewald train station. On the way back from the Gribnitzee campus, the S7 train makes a stop at Grunewald where visitors can see a quiet memorial to where thousands of Jews were transported by train off to extermination camps in Poland during World War II. Although rarely indicated in any Berlin guidebooks, bronze plates along the tracks provide a reference to the dates and the number of Jews transported out of Berlin.

Plate along the tracks chronicles the worst moments of 20th century European history.

As compelling as the impact of World War II is on Berlin, one cannot forget the division of the city under communism after the war.

Standing these days in Alexanderplatz is a display commemorating the events that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in the Fall of 1989. To me, these events have such relevance because they actually happened in my lifetime. I'm old enough to remember there actually being a country called East Germany, and taking the time to walk through this display chronicling how stressed East German society became gave me a better understanding of events that I saw play out on the news when I was very young.

Photograph at the free display in Alexanderplatz shows an East German couple escaping to Hungary mere months before the Berlin Wall fell in November of 1989.

Visitors to Berlin should not miss the DDR Museum! This is an interactive museum designed to show what life was like under communist rule. Here, one can sit in an East German made Trabant (basically the East German response to the West's Volkswagon Beetle), watching Stasi (East German secret police) surveillance video, and even sample a variety of programming from the DDR era. The fact that you can actually pick up and hold much of what is on display at the DDR Museum makes it a fun experience, and provides fantastic insight into history that is not that distant.

The trunk of a Trabant.

By Brian Elliott, Student, Touro Law Summer Abroad Program in Germany 2010


James Durham - Signing Out



Tomorrow is my final day in Israel. I have been touched intellectually, aesthetically, and spiritually by this remarkable country - and, in particular, by Jerusalem. Several weeks will pass before experiences are analyzed and organized in my psyche. Right now, I'm still awash in rich sensation - the stinging midday sun, the cool evening breezes, lapis skies, the smooth slide of ancient stone streets, and the sweet-sharp lift of mint lemonade. I'm grateful - appreciative of a city that sings its soul so sweetly, and happy for a career that sends me to far corners of the globe. I'm challenged and I'm soothed. I'm centered in a city that some consider holy. Thank you for following my journey...and the journey of our students, who are learning the law...and experiencing so much more!

A dinner in the terraced garden of Little Jerusalem (also known as "Ticho House"), the former home of Israeli painter, Anna Ticho, located about two blocks from the entertainment district of Ben Yehuda Street.

Videos:

June 16, 2010 - Students and staff enjoy a fountain located in Muristan, near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

June 16, 2010 - Evening on the Roman Cardo, a marketplace in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.

June 16, 2010 - The grand finale of a sound and light show at the walls of the Old City.


By James Durham, Touro Law Summer Abroad Program in Israel 2010

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Professor Deborah Post - Chinese Spirituality



Visiting China is always an adventure in cross-cultural understanding. Probably the one issue that defies translation is the system of beliefs that constitute religion or spirituality. I made my annual visit with students to the Buddhist temple at Nan Putuo. We watched as the Chinese visiting the temple placed gifts of flowers or fruits, burned incense or knelt before the images of Buddha and the compassionate Bodhisatva Guanyin with her 100 arms and two heads. The students took up the game of pitching pennies or yuan onto a rock or into a pagoda’s tiny doors, or hiked the mountain to the shrine at the top of the hill, and I took myself to the stand at the base of the path up the mountain that offers items tourists want to buy and ritual paper money.

Behind the store is a large furnace, and pilgrims to the temple take paper wealth to that furnace and burn it. If the Chinese are right, my parents have a little pocket money now in that other dimension inhabited by human spirits. The Chinese believe that burning paper money or cars or computers or flat screen televisions works to deliver these items to ancestors. Actually, my volunteer, Chenhuan, tells me that she is not concerned with remote ancestors. She burns paper money for her grandmother, and her father does the same for his grandmother. Between the two of them the Chen family is providing for physical and financial comfort of the prior two generations.

Chenhuan also warned me that in the year of the Ox, the Chinese astrological sign in the year of my birth, I must wear red underwear or at least a red string on my wrist to fend off bad luck or bad spirits. I wish I had known this last year, 2009, which was indeed the year of the Ox. If I had known, I might have avoided some of the challenges that presented themselves during the year.

If you are a fan of Amy Tan, who introduced us to the Kitchen Gods Wife and to the spirits that inhabit Chinese cosmology in The Hundred Secret Senses, or if you pay attention to something other than your food when you eat at a Chinese restaurant in the U.S., you won’t be surprised at the ubiquitous shrines to local small “g” gods that we found in China. I finally asked Hannah and Charles the identity of the god in one Cantonese restaurant, and I was told that the god was Cai Shen, the god of prosperity. In Chengzhou, in the home of Charles’ mother, I saw another shrine, and I asked the identity of that god. The figurines on the shrine looked remarkably like Guanyin, but I was told that this is a shrine to the god of the earth, Tu Di. I have since learned that Tu Di is a very local god. Each locality has its own earth god, but apparently these gods share the same name. The god of prosperity and the god of the earth are both protector deities. Makes sense that farmers would want to propitiate the god of the earth and that merchants would look to a god who was concerned with profits. The gods in China are quite specialized.


This god of the earth, if the figurines are actually the gods and not handmaidens to the god, looks a lot like Matzu, the goddess of the sea who looks after the fishermen in Jimei and Xiamen. Matzu in her turn looks like many of the figures of Guanyin that they sell in Nan Putuo and some versions of Guanyin begin to look a lot like Madonna and child.

I have heard it said that the current government has been reinstituting old traditions, like the tomb-sweeping holiday that takes place in the Spring, QingMing. I don’t think much encouragement is necessary. I am not sure that these traditions were ever really abandoned, except perhaps by those who were immediately and intimately involved in the Cultural Revolution. It is pretty hard to eradicate traditions that are deeply rooted in centuries old cultural traditions even when the ferocity of youth is unleashed and directed at the “old” or the “feudal” in society.

I try not to probe too deeply into matters of religion with our volunteers. It came up only twice this summer. Once I asked as delicately as I could about the arrest of public interest lawyers. I did not name them: Gao Zhisheng and two other lawyers, Tang Jitian and Liu Wi, the two lawyers most recently disbarred. The Chinese student looked confused. “Why would a lawyer be arrested?” she asked. “Because they represented unpopular clients, like the members of the Falun Gong movement,” I answered. Her response was immediate. “Falun Gong is evil. It encourages its members to kill themselves.” There was a case of self immolation by a member of Falun Gong a while back so I was not surprised by her response. If this law student is typical of the average Chinese then the government has been quite successful in persuading people that Falun Gong is a threat to public safety.

What I did not expect was the discussion I had some days later about Christianity. I was told, somewhat to my surprise, by a volunteer that she was considering seriously the advantages of Christianity after viewing the last episode of Lost. I am not sure why Lost would inspire one to convert or whether the producers of the show knew or intended the show to have this effect. Who knew that Lost could be used to proselytize? If I understood the student correctly, she thought that Lost proved that there are things in life that cannot be explained by science. Why a work of fiction would have probative effect I am not certain. In any event, it seems to me that people who burn money for the benefit of ancestors have already acknowledged the existence of the supernatural and its proximity to our own world. What exactly was in that episode of Lost?

Anyone interested in a more authoritative discussion of spirituality in China should visit Speaking of Faith to hear an interview with the anthropologist Mayfair Yang.

By Professor Deborah Post, Touro Law Summer Abroad Program in China 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010

Professor Louise Harmon - Petra: A Dream Come True



So often the seeds of dreams are sown in elementary school. In this instance, the dream germinated not from my own elementary school experience, but from that of my daughter Kate’s. Her second-grade class had been responsible for the Middle East at her school’s International Day Fair, and Kate’s job was to educate her peers about Petra. I promised myself: This is her school project, not yours. Just provide the materials, and keep your nose out of her project. Let her do the work, not you.

Ha.

That’s how I first learned about the amazing engineering feats of the Nabateans. I was so glad that Kate was the child who was with me this summer since it was she who had sprinkled gold glitter over a poster board-rendering of the Treasury, lo those 13 years ago. It was she who had stood tall before the second grade, solemnly imparting information on the Arab tribes of southern Jordan to all who would listen. (And there were not many…)

Last weekend, Kate and I finally got to Petra. Along with 15 law students, and four faculty members, we took a day-long tour from our base in Eilat, where we had spent the day before snorkeling with dolphins in the Red Sea, goggling at tropical fish on the coral reef, and hanging out at the motel pool, made tepid from 105-degree weather. The bus trip to Petra took several hours from Eilat, and we arrived at noon, just in time for a full baking from the unremitting desert sun. Several of us bought a keffiyeh, Jordanian head gear, and we all slathered ourselves in ritual fashion with SPF 45, donned sturdy walking shoes and sunglasses, and prepared for the blinding walk down to Petra.

Professor Louise Harmon adapts to the Jordanian heat and sunshine.

Once we made it into the Sik, the name given to the narrow, winding gorge that leads down to the ancient city, the sun ceased to be a problem. The high, rugged, rose-colored cliffs on either side created narrow bands of dark shade to stand in, and for some reason, a wind blasted through the canyon, drying us out and cooling us down. For me, one of the most amazing things about Petra is its entry.

Rock striations in the Petra Siq (canyon).

For reasons having to do with nothing in particular, I’d spent the spring of 2010 obsessing about Frank Lloyd Wright, and I took him with us to Petra. Wright, with his love of secret, understated entry ways that turn suddenly into large, open spaces, would have approved of the entrance to Petra. You have no way to anticipate what is about to confront you as you meander down the Sik, dodging the clattering horse-drawn carriages that hurtle down the canyon ways at break neck speed, carrying elderly tourists who opted for a thirty-dollar, bone-rattling chariot ride over the more leisurely descent on foot. The pathway twists and turns, but with no sense of purpose, taking its direction from the patterns of erosion, and the cutting edges of once rushing water – not that there’s a drop of water in sight now. Suddenly, you take a minor, inconsequential turn, and you’re standing in a huge, cavernous public space, staring at t he Al-Khazneh, or the Treasury. Carved in the first century BCE as a tomb of an important Nabatean king, its primary influence is Hellenistic, and it’s many stories high – an imposing architectural expression of masculine importance and power. With his love of the understated and the horizontal, Frank Lloyd Wright would no longer have approved. But both of us were enthralled, and told Frank to take a hike.

The “Treasury” building of Petra (actually, a grand mausoleum).

Carved from the cliffs…

Just a bit further into the site, I think Frank Lloyd Wright would have once again joined us in wonder – this time over a work of nature, not of man. Our colleagues were prepared to continue further down into the site. We’d made it as far as the theater that originally seated 3,000 under the Nabateans, but had been expanded to hold over 7,000 by the Romans. It was amazing, but Kate and I were dripping, over-heated, crabby and tired. We’d been seduced by a Bedouin and his ragged horse to take a carriage ride back up, but our wonderful guide, Adnan, kept begging us to just take a few steps further, to go inside some lesser caves that had “beautiful, beautiful colors in sand…. Just one more beautiful thing, madam, one more beautiful thing.”

A chariot driver and Kate Jordan in the Siq of Petra.

And there inside those cool caves, we found swirling striations of sand stone in every hue – purplish blue, orange, yellow, salmon pink – in outrageous, abstract and modern patterns. The walls of those caves made me recall Frank, and he too was moved by them. Their beauty was organic, and in his colors. I wish that I had words to tell you about that sandstone in the caves at Petra, but you’ll have to see my pictures, and take my word for it – it was one more beautiful thing.

Beautiful striations…

And more beautiful striations…

Sometimes dreams that come true are disappointing. Sometimes they are not.

By Louise Harmon, Touro Law Summer Abroad Program in Israel 2010


James Durham - East of the Old City



East of the Old City of Jerusalem, just outside the wall, lies the Mount of Olives and several sites of religious significance. The Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed on the night before the crucifixion, is beautifully maintained by friars. The Garden is home to several ancient and venerable olive trees, contorted with age but still producing olives. The Church of All Nations, also known as the Gethsemane Basilica of the Agony, lies within the Garden and protects a stone outcropping where Jesus prayed. Two other churches have stood on this site, and their ruins are preserved in the Garden. The Tomb of the Virgin, the burial place of the mother of Jesus, is adjacent to the Garden of Gethsemane. The site is shared by various Christian sects, and also is venerated by Muslims because Muhammad is reported to have seen a light over the tomb on his journey from Mecca to Jerusalem. The Grotto of Gethsemane, next to the Tomb, is where the disciples are said to have rested while Jesus prayed in the Garden. The Mount of Olives also contains the largest and oldest Jewish cemetery in the world. Several notables, such as Prime Minister Menachem Begin, are buried at the site.

One of several aged olive trees protected within the walls of the Garden of Gethsemane.

Arches, columns, and capitals of the portico at All Nations Church on the Mount of Olives.

An altar within the Tomb of the Virgin.

Steps within the Tomb of the Virgin.

By James Durham, Touro Law Summer Abroad Program in Israel 2010


Friday, June 18, 2010

Professor Deborah Post - Explorations in China



It was pretty early in the morning when we all piled on the bus to head for the home of Charles Guo, the coordinator of this year’s China program. I am sure there was nothing that everyone would have liked more than a little sleep, especially as the trip would take more than two hours. Sleep was pretty hard to come by under the circumstances.

Once you get outside the city of Xiamen, driving through the pretty spectacular undersea tunnel, an object of national pride on the part of Chinese volunteers who joined us for the day, the mode of transportation changes. There are fewer cars and many, many more motorbikes. Motorbikes carrying mother and child; motorized bikes with truck beds balanced precariously on top and heavy loads of materials, mostly granite or pipes or construction materials, carried in the back. For the students in the back of the bus, it felt like our bus driver was mad, furiously hitting his horn as he swerved to pass trucks, motorbikes and pedestrians. The students all said they were afraid for their lives. Those of us up front, though, had a first-hand view of the driver's attempt to avoid the cart pulled by a buffalo blocking traffic or the last-minute maneuvers to avoid motorbikes and pedestrians who appeared out of nowhere. The remarkable thing to me is that there are not more catastrophic accidents in a country where there are few traffic signals at all. In reality I was more concerned about his frequent expectoration out the side window. If the wind blew the wrong way...

China 2010 students and faculty aboard the bus.

Charles and his family were quite generous with us and treated us to a fabulous meal at a local restaurant with all manner of seafood including flying fish and turtle soup. We adjourned to Charles's family home, which we in the U.S. might call the homestead, and while the other students and our guests, Peter and Melissa, wandered around the house, I had an English/Chinese lesson with the children of the cousin of Charles. It is quite an extended family and one that has not complied with the one child rule at all. There are exemptions from this rule for those who live in the countryside but in this particular case, the family paid the fines that the government levies against those who violate the law. The result though is fine extended family with three different households.

Professor Deborah Post with the children of the cousins of Charles Guo.

China 2010 program coordinator, Charles Guo, with his nephews.

The best thing about the trip, as far as I was concerned, was the chance to get out of the city and to see mountains unobstructed, or only partially obstructed, by high rise housing. Sweet potatoes, peanuts and eggplant seem to grow wherever the farmers find some empty space, but the main crop was clearly rice – fields and fields of rice. The most popular animals were goats, chickens and ducks, and there were the most remarkable or ingenious woven baskets that served as “homes” for the chickens. The rooster, at least, seemed pretty comfortable inside as well as outside the house singled out one front room for his favorite place.


China 2010 students Robert King and Melissa Ausili.

We were served watermelon (how could we be offered anything but) and tea and then we took a walk down a well-trod path (no sidewalk here) and under a railroad trestle where we got a great view of the DaWu mountains (I think that is the anglicized version of the name), which means Big Fog or Foggy mountains. The DaWu mountains provide a backdrop for their sister chain, the "fairy castle" mountains. And yes, that is cattle out there grazing in the rice fields.

China 2010 student Ben Shaw

Of course, the farming methods in China are not mechanized. How could they be with each family owning a small piece of land that they cultivate? The fields are filled with women with hoes and old women and men carrying the “natural” fertizlier we know as “night soil” out into the fields. It makes for a verdent green field, a bumper crop of vegetables and rice, but the smell is a little off putting. I have the same reaction to the cow manure and the chemical fertilizers that they spread all over the landscaping work done at home in Long Island each Spring. I left my farming roots back in upstate New York more years ago than I like to remember, and I have no interest in renewing that connection. I don’t want my hands in the soil, but the fields and the animals and the hardworking Chinese people in the countryside are an inspiration and a quiet place to meditate on the beauty of the countryside that seems to be disappearing in an massive effort at "rural/urban integration" here in China.


By Professor Deborah Post, Touro Law Summer Abroad Program in China 2010


All photos courtesy of Chenhuan, my chinese volunteer

James Durham - Sunshine and Sand in Eilat



Several student and faculty participants in the Israel 2010 program recently took an extended weekend excursion to Eilat (in Israel, on the Red Sea) and to Petra (in the Jordanian desert). Eilat is a sunny Israeli resort where summer temperatures regularly surpass the 100-degree mark. Sunscreen, a hat, and bottled water are necessities. Our group took advantage of several recreational opportunities during our sojourn: snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming with dolphins, sunbathing, and jeep excursions into the desert.

A wooden yacht passes beach lounge chairs on the Gulf of Eilat. (Photo courtesy of Sergey Korolev - Touro.)

A leaping dolphin at the Eilat Dolphinarium. (Photo courtesy of Peter Mancino.)

Colorful residents of the Rare Fish Aquarium at the Underwater Observatory Marine Park in Eilat.

In southern Israel, looking through barbed wired to the Egyptian border and Sinai.

The mausoleums of Paula and David Ben-Gurion (the first Prime Minister of Israel) in the park-like setting of their burial site in the Negev Desert, near the kibbutz of Sde Boker.

Moshe Hesed -- our guide for recent trips to Masada, the Dead Sea, Eilat and Petra. (Photo courtesy of Sergey Korolev - Touro.)

Happy campers at a faculty dinner in the resort of Eilat.

Video: June 14, 2010 - Sleepy students on the air-conditioned bus from Eilat to Jerusalem, recovering from too much sun and sand.

Professor Louise Harmon will soon be blogging about the Petra portion of our visit to southern Israel. Stay tuned for exciting explorations and more lovely photos...

By James Durham, Touro Law Summer Abroad Program in Israel 2010

Thursday, June 17, 2010

James Durham - The Biblical Zoo



The Tisch Family Zoological Gardens (also known as "The Biblical Zoo") is located about 25 minutes from the Old City in Jerusalem. Several students and faculty have enjoyed strolling the landscaped grounds (with labeled tree specimens) during a free morning or afternoon. The Biblical Zoo harbors a collection of animals mentioned in the Bible, and also participates in breeding programs for rare or endangered species of animals from around the world. Their web site may be found at www.jerusalemzoo.org.il. Here are a few of the fascinating animals featured in their collection:

Syrian Brown Bear resting on a rock.

Leopard contemplates dinner resting on a rock above his head.

Asian Elephants explore a "treat niche" in the retaining wall of their exhibit, in search of healthy snacks.

Nubian Ibex surveys his surroundings from a rocky perch.

Graceful Scimitar-Horned Oryx huddle with herd members for security.

A grand Pelican on the shore of a pond at The Biblical Zoo.

By James Durham, Touro Law Summer Abroad Program in Israel 2010


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

James Durham - Jerusalem Gastronomy



Who knew the food in Israel would be this good? In previous summer programs, I typically have lost weight due to increased exercise and hot weather. Despite the warm days (followed by cool evenings) in Jerusalem, I have succeeded in expanding my waistline in a few short weeks. Israeli cuisine is delicious, and Jerusalem is blessed with an abundance of very good restaurants, often in lovely venues. Here are a few of the food items I've grown to love...

Lemonana: fresh-squeezed lemonade combined with crushed ice and shredded mint leaves. "Nana" means mint in Hebrew.

Israeli Salad: chopped Israeli cucumber (slightly different than U.S. cucumbers) and tomato salad, usually tossed with fresh parsley and vinaigrette.

Shakshuka: a Middle-Eastern dish of cooked tomatoes, olives, and spices, combined with eggs, and baked in an iron skillet.

Sea bass, with roasted potatoes, lemons, garlic, and chives. Fresh fish is plentiful because of Israel's proximity to the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. (Photo courtesy of Sergey Korolev - Touro)

Almond-pear tarte in sweet crème with a glass of dark coffee.

Ringed loaves of fresh bread await customers at the Jaffa Gate in the Old City. (Photo courtesy of Sergey Korolev - Touro)

By James Durham, Touro Law Summer Abroad Programs in Israel 2010


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

James Durham - Blue Sea and Bauhaus: A Day in Tel Aviv



Tel Aviv is merely a 45-minute ride by sherut (inexpensive shared taxi) from West Jerusalem. Students and faculty are taking advantage of Tel Aviv's proximity for afternoon sightseeing, sunbathing on beaches and nightlife.

Sometimes known as "The White City," Tel Aviv is home to thousands of buildings built in the architectural style known as "Bauhaus." The Bauhaus School in Germany, known for its production of modern art and architecture, was closed by the Nazi regime in 1933. Several Jewish architects from the Bauhaus School fled Germany and landed in the British Mandate of Palestine (later Israel). From the early 1930's until the 1950's, entire neighborhoods of burgeoning Tel Aviv were constructed in the sleek Bauhaus style. Most of these buildings were painted white, coining the moniker "The White City."

The striking angles of a Bauhaus apartment building.

On a recent visit to Tel Aviv, I took an audio walking tour of one of Tel Aviv's Bauhaus neighborhoods, bounded by the following streets: Yael, Shlomo Hamelech, Dizengoff, Frug and Frishman. The audio walking tours are provided by the Bauhaus Center of Tel Aviv, located at 99 Dizengoff Street. The Center sells a wide array of Bauhaus books and souvenirs. To learn more, try Dwelling on the Dunes, Tel Aviv: Modern Movement and Bauhaus Ideals by Nitza Metzger-Szmuk, a leading book on Tel Aviv's Bauhaus architects and architecture.

Hot pink bougainvillea highlights a Bauhaus apartment building with shuttered porches.

A beautifully restored Bauhaus apartment building on Frug Street.

The port of Old Jaffa is a short ride from the Bauhaus neighborhoods of Tel Aviv. Mosques, churches, and gardens terraced in limestone provide a lovely and peaceful stroll, away from the bustle of modern Tel Aviv. Old Jaffa provides panoramic views of Mediterranean beaches and the skyline of Tel Aviv.

A minaret in Old Jaffa, next to rocks in the harbor where Andromeda is said to have been tied for sacrifice to the Kraken.

A panoramic view of the coastline of Tel Aviv from atop the terraced gardens of Old Jaffa.

After sightseeing, the restaurants of Tel Aviv provide good respite. We visited “Orna and Ella” at 33 Sheinkin Street, had a leisurely meal, and encountered the American actor Paul Giamatti, ineffectively hidden behind dark sunglasses.

By James Durham, Touro Law Summer Abroad Program in Israel 2010