Wednesday, 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.