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Inside the 3L Year: Access to Justice Class Visits Ramallah

Law students in the Access to Justice practicum traveled to Israel and Palestine in late November to explore the Palestinian and Israeli legal systems. In this post, 3L Hannah Shtein discusses the class visit to Ramallah for a U.S. trial demonstration and visit a juvenile detention center.

Tuesday, November 25

We leave our hotel to travel to Ramallah, where our next trial demonstration will be, by way of Bethlehem. On the way, we stop at a traditional scarf-making factory, the only factory in Palestine where traditional Palestinian scarves, called “kafiyas” (such as the black and white checkered one often seen on Yasser Arafat) are still made—many of the other factories that make them are now in China. The factory is fairly small, with one room for the machines that make the scarves, and one room where the finished creations are sold.

We spend some time walking around the machines, watching them quickly turn loose, colorful threads into intricate designs, and then move to the finished, packaged scarves to find souvenirs for our families and friends. The owner of the factory greets us in the store with tea and cookies, and talks to us about the history of the factory and the scarves. We learn, for example, that different scarf designs can stand for different political parties in Palestine.

Leaving the factory with handfuls of scarves, we drive to Bethlehem, our next tourist point. Here, we visit the Church of the Nativity, where Jesus Christ is believed to have been born. Because of the church’s history, is has special significance for both Muslim and Christian faiths. The church is beautiful, and I hear at least five different languages around me as we walk around its interior—this is clearly a destination for travelers from all over the world.

Our next stop in Bethlehem is one of my favorites on the trip. There are several places around Bethlehem where Banksy, a prominent graffiti artist, has created artworks opposing the Israeli occupation. An Israeli-built wall (sometimes called the West Bank barrier) separates Israel from the West Bank, and part of it cuts through Bethlehem. Banksy’s artworks, as well others around the city, express opposition to the wall. We drive to see all three of the works, and walk along the wall itself, which is also covered in graffiti.

We finish off this leg of the trip in Ramallah, where we will meet students at Modern University for another trial demonstration, and visit a juvenile detention center.

Wednesday, November 26-Monday, December 1

Wednesday morning starts with another trial demonstration and Q&A at Modern University in Ramallah. Afterward, we spend some time chatting with the students on a more casual basis, and they tell us some of their favorite places to shop and eat in Ramallah.

Next, we head to the International Legal Foundation offices in Ramallah to meet some of the attorneys. One of the ILF lawyers, Kiyomi Bolick is a W&L alum who has been playing the role of the accused in our trial demonstrations, and is on a Public Defender fellowship with the ILF.

The ILF functions as the Public Defender service in Palestine, and consists of mostly Palestinian attorneys, with a couple of Americans who are doing fellowships like Kiyomi. There is also a recent law graduate who is doing an internship with the ILF office before she enters practice—this training period is a requirement for Palestinian graduates before they can work on their own. Aya, the intern, takes us with her to court, and we are able to observe a couple of Palestinian hearings in action. It’s difficult to fully understand what’s happening without a translator, but we are able to observe the presentation of witnesses and evidence. Additionally, despite Palestine’s reputation (at least by some accounts) as a socially conservative country, there is a relatively high number of female judges and attorneys.

Thursday is Thanksgiving, and we arrange to do a traditional American celebration at Kiyomi’s house. I love Middle Eastern food, but I don’t hide my excitement and pumpkin cheesecake and mashed potatoes. We also spend a little time exploring Ramallah, and visit one of Professor Rice’s favorite tourist traps, a coffee shop called Stars & Bucks (see what they did there?). Because Palestine has not yet been officially recognized as a state, trademark enforcement is much weaker, so Stars & Bucks can get away with their nod toward a certain Seattle-born coffee franchise. I buy my dad a Stars & Bucks mug.

On Friday and Saturday, we visit Taybeh, a Christian village in Palestine, as well as the Dead Sea and Jericho (we don’t pass up the opportunity to slather ourselves in Dead Sea mud). We finish our time in Palestine with a visit to a juvenile detention center, and a final trial demonstration in the town of Jenin. Our next stop is Israel, where we will meet with the Israeli public defender.