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Letter: U of Manitoba overseas law program to Israel is largest

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Supreme Court of Israel. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

My colleagues and I were intrigued to read Mr. Ari Blaff’s August 16th story, First Canadian Law School Participates in iTrek Trip to Israel. The story was about Canadian law students learning about Israel and its justice system in a one-week-long iTrek trip. The trip sounds like a worthy program, and we are impressed by the initiative shown by its student organizers.

Your readers might get the impression from this story, however, that this is the first and only opportunity for Canadian law students to study in Israel. For the past seven years, Canadian law students have been visiting Israel through the University of Manitoba’s “Mishpatim” program. Open to law students across Canada, many have described the for-credit three-week program as the best part of their law degree experience and as “life changing.”

Mishpatim is the largest overseas program for Canadian law students of which we are aware. We now have over two hundred alumni from over half a dozen Canadian law schools, including Calgary, Saskatchewan, Osgoode Hall, University of Ottawa and University of Montreal.

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The subtitle of the course is “Traditional Peoples and Newcomers in the Start-up Nation.” Running each May, the program is hosted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in close association with its elite Faculty of Law. The program was conceived and is organized annually by Dr. Bryan Schwartz, who holds a doctorate in law from Yale and is our endowed chair in International Business and Trade Law.

In the program, students explore the legal, social and political framework for Israel’s emergence as a high-tech hub. They study the challenges of how traditional peoples, such as Ultra-Orthodox Jews, Arabs from villages in the North, Bedouin and Druze peoples fit into that ultra-modern economy. Students also learn about issues involving newcomers, such as immigrants from Ethiopia, guest workers from South Asia and refugees from Darfur.

Mishpatim students have enthused about the academic content as well as experiential opportunity. They compare and contrast Israel in all dimensions with their own experiences. Participants learn about all kinds of law, in areas ranging from constitutional and international law to business law. Besides classroom lectures, the program includes site visits, field trips, and guest lecturers ranging from judges of the High Court of Israel to advocates for human rights groups.  Many Mishpatim graduates have maintained an ongoing interest in Israel since taking part in the program, and some have returned to pursue advanced degrees in law.

The University of Manitoba’s Mishpatim program would be excited to host iTrek students who would like to return to Israel for a more extensive and for-credit educational experience. We also welcome students from law faculties across Canada who would be experiencing Israel for the first time.

Due to generous existing Canadian donor support, we are able to arrange for major subsidies for all our students, which makes this three-week program accessible for a fraction of the usual cost of such for-credit summer programs.

We are already planning Mishpatim 2018. Please visit our website for information, student feedback about the program, course syllabi, and information about how to register.

Kind Regards,

Lisa Fainstein, Associate Dean

Robson Hall, Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba