May 30, 2008
I've just wound up a very busy week in Jerusalem. The Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has been hosting several conferences and had at least two faculty workshops with guest speakers. The Hebrew University is a very, very distinguished institution, and its Faculty of Law is superb. The students are first-rate, and the faculty are highly productive, very well known, and interesting and highly articulate colleagues. On the basis of the large number of reprints and other writings that I've been given, it seems to me that this faculty is publishing in some of the most highly regarded U.S. law reviews with a regularity that top-10 or top-15 U.S. law school faculties would envy. And the discussions at the faculty workshops and conferences have been superb.
For the last several days, the law faculty has hosted a conference on "Empirical Methods in Criminal and Civil Procedure." The program is here, and from that webpage you can download the papers that were presented. It was a first-rate conference, and its organizer, Professor Doron Teichman, is to be congratulated.
The class that I've been teaching is entitled "Economic, Behavioral, and Empirical Analysis of Contract Law." The syllabus for the course is Download hebrew_university.Contracts.Syllabus.May, 2008.doc . Originally, there were only 10 students in the class, and we had divided up reading and reporting responsibilities among those students for the many articles on the syllabus. But we've had so many join the class that that is no longer feasible. Nonetheless, as part of their course requirements, the students are going to submit written comments on many of the readings. Later in the Summer I will compile all those submissions and circulate them. I'll also post them on this website.
Following a suggestion made by a colleague at Hebrew University, i took a walk late this afternoon south from the Mishkenot Shaananim along the Hebron Road until I found Naomi St. I turned east on Naomi and after a few blocks found a delightful walk called the Sherover Promenade. It is a park-like, paved walkway that runs for a couple of miles along a ridge south of the Old City. The views of the Old City and of the Valley of Hinnom are spectacular. It's a little bit of a hike to find the Promenade, but if you get to Jerusalem, don't miss it.
I've finished two books this week. I recommend Bill Bryson's Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid in the highest possible terms. It is a complete and utter delight. I listened to the author read the book while I was going on long walks around Jerusalem. There were parts that were so funny that I had to stop walking and simply stop to laugh. I'm sure the natives wanted to put a coat on me with long sleeves that tie in the back. The other book I've just finished is Richard Stark's Dirty Money. "Richard Stark" is the distinguished mystery novelist Donald Westlake, and this is the latest in a series of books about the uninominal "Parker," who makes his living stealing money and can be a very rough customer. The others in the series have been top-drawer stories. This one is a lower drawer.
Tomorrow I'm taking a tour of Bethlehem.
May 27, 2008
If you have never been to Jerusalem, there are a couple of things about the place that you might not know. First, it's located at 1000m altitude. It's pretty high, and every now and then it snows here in the Winter. Second, it's remarkably hilly. I have been doing a lot of walking around the city center and the Old City while I've been here, and I'm astonished at how much going up and coming down I do. And these are not minor rises like those that characterize Champaign, Illinois. No, sir. These are some serious hills.
One of the great advantages of having a hilly city is that there are some spectacular views to be had. For example, the area in which I'm staying -- Yemin Moshe -- is on the west side of the Valley of Hinnom, which is the valley running between the western edge of the Old City and the new (modern) city. In the evenings I hike up part of the hill toward King David Street to an observation terrace and sit and watch the Old City and the neighborhoods to the south of it as the sun goes down behind me and the moon comes up out of the Judean deseart.
This evening I had dinner with my former student, Amir Shavitzky, who did a JSD at Illinois and is now in private practice in Tel Aviv, which is about 45 minutes west-northwest of Jerusalem and is on the Mediterranean. Amir and I went to the observation terrace, and he pointed out to me the wall -- that is, the wall that Israel constructed to divide itself from the West Bank -- snaking up the Mount of Olives to the south of the Old City. That is not that far away, a reminder of how close the West Bank is. (I'll write some more about this soon.)
Another marvelous view is to be had from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's Mount Scopus campus. (For reasons that I'll go into tomorrow, the Hebrew University has four campuses.) Mount Scopus is in the northeast of the city and is the highest point in Jerusalem. From the terraces in front of the university there is a spectacular view of the Old City to the south, with the golden Dome of the Rock gleaming in the sunlight.
One last thing that I've noticed is how incredibly bright the sunlight is here. If one has been inside and goes out into the daylight, it's almost painful on one's eyes. A hat or sunglasses are almost a necessity.
Tomorrow I'll talk more about the Hebrew University and its remarkable law faculty and about my class.
May 25, 2008
It is Sunday, May 25, here in Jerusalem. There are several surprising -- to an American or European -- aspects to the rhythm of life here. First, the work week is Sunday through Thursday. Shabbat is Saturday. Actually, it's a little more complicated than that. The Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday and ends with the appearance of three stars on Saturday. When one of the delightful receptionists at the Mishkenot Shaananim, where I'm staying, explained this to me and I asked, "What if there are clouds and you can't see the stars? And is this true everywhere or just three stars visible in Jerusalem?," she said, "Are you a law professor?" Ouch. There is, Alina, the receptionist, told me, a table available each week that tells when three stars would be viewable at any location in the world. Last night, it was at 8:12 pm in Jerusalem, slightly later in Tel Aviv.
This difference in the workweek takes a little getting used to. It's not just that the days are shifted; it's also that, at least in West Jerusalem, much of the city is closed up for Saturday. Restaurants, stores, kiosks, coffee shops -- all closed. And because of the restrictions on working on the Sabbath, the offerings at breakfast were different. For one thing, the waiter couldn't make coffee, which he normally does in a spectacularly good fashion. Instead, someone had laid out a jar of instant coffee, a quart of milk, and an urn of hot water, and we made our own coffee. I did find one restaurant open yesterday afternoon -- the 3 Arches Restaurant at the YMCA on King David Street. That imposing building is just across the street from the venerable King David Hotel. And the food, by the way, is good.
I'm off to class this afternoon at the Hebrew University. We're finishing our discussion of the economics of contract law today before beginning a section for the next week on some advanced new readings on the law and economics of contracts. I'll report on those readings in my next post.
May 21, 2008
I'm in Jerusalem for three weeks, teaching a short course in the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on "The Economic, Behavioral,and Empirical Analysis of Contract Law." I've visited Jerusalem and Israel before, having been a Fulbright Scholar at the Faculty of Law at the University of Haifa in 2005. This is the first time that I've spent more than a day or two in Jerusalem. I'm going to use the occasion of this trip (and the separation from the usual delights of family life at home and the press of work at the University of Illinois College of Law) to write about law and economics here in Jerusalem, about the things that I'm reading with my class, about the remarkably productive and intelligent law faculty at Hebrew University, and about Jerusalem and events in Israel.
Let me begin with a very brief description of where I'm staying -- a delightful guest house in downtown Jerusalem called the Mishkenot Shaananim. The Mishkenot has only 25 or so rooms for guests and is not generally open to the public but only to visiting writers, artists, musicians, and guest of the state. The rooms are wonderful; the staff is remarkably good; and the food is terrific. It's quiet, one of the most charmingly inviting places to work I've ever been in. If I were in the final stages of writing a book and wanted a place in which to have the peace and quiet to finish the book, this would be it.
The Mishkenot is nestled just across the Hinnom Valley from the west wall of the Old City (about which more later) and just down the hill from King David Street and the venerable King David Hotel. (That hotel has a spectacular lobby and a charming bar people with lots of foreign guests. In celebration of the hotel's 70th anniversary, there is a carpet down the middle of the first-floor hall with the signatures and dates of the many dignitaries who have stayed here. President Bush, during his recent visit to Israel, stayed at the King David.) There is a long, covered veranda running along the west side of the guesthouse with access from each of the guest rooms. Outside my room are two very comfortable chairs and a table. In the evening I can sit on the veranda and watch the sunlight fade on the walls of the Old City and the full moon rise out of the Judean desert to the southeast of the city. It's magical.
On the walls outside the rooms of the Mishkenot are photographs of the many very distinguished writers and artists who have stayed here over the years. It gives me great pleasure that Kenneth Arrow's picture is on the wall just outside my room.
I'm reading Thomas Friedman's From Beirut to Jerusalem, which was originally published in 1989 and updated in 1995. Of the many things that I have read about Israel and the Mideast, this is the best -- smoothly written and cogently observed. I cannot recommend it highly enough.