Texas A&M Global Programs 2018 Israel Field Study Student Blog

May17 Temple MountThe Texas A&M University School of Law Global Programs May 2018 Field Study course "Israel: Water, Energy and Dispute Resolution" explored the history, culture and legal issues related to water, energy and associated dispute resolution challenges. Students also ​experienced the basics of international and comparative law and cross-cultural communication. ​

The​ course offered a first-hand deep dive into the regulatory, political, and environmental issues at play in the region. The students gained insight into the nuances of dispute resolution in a different and challenging part of the world that could not be replicated in the classroom.

► Learn more about the Israel field study.

Check out the student blog posts about their experiences in the Middle East:


Israel May13 Givat Haviva Green Line

Haifa University, Givat Haviva, and the Druze

Posted by Brandon Schuelke, J.D. '​​20

I had never truly been outside of the United States until this trip to Israel with the Law School. Yes, I’ve been to Mexico with my family but the major tourist areas of Mexico have been overrun by gringos for so long that they feel American. And I’ve also been to Canada with my wife for our honeymoon but other than needing our passports, Canada didn’t feel any different from the U.S. in the week we spent in and around Toronto. I have always wanted to travel the world but have had few opportunities to do so, and when I was presented with the opportunity to travel and study law at the same time, I knew I had to take the opportunity.

I was interested in the trip to Israel because of the history of the country, the religious cultures in the region, and the program being offered by the school to study water, energy, and natural resources law and public policy as well as dispute resolution. I was particularly interested in the dispute resolution component because I had been a part of intense business negotiations before and wanted to expand upon my interest in that area of the law.

Haifa University

Israel May11 Haifa UnivAggie Law students at Haifa University Faculty of Law.

While in Israel, we had the opportunity to meet with other law students from Haifa University and learn about some of the natural resource issues facing their country. These law students were from the Marine Resources, Law and Policy Legal Clinic.

One of the more interesting things we learned while meeting with these students is that a law degree in Israel is an undergraduate degree and not a graduate or professional degree. Also, while meeting with these students, we learned that Israel does not deal with the concept of preemption because they do not have a federal system like we do.

We were able to hear these students’ presentations on their final projects for a policy class. We learned that the presence of the huge natural gas field in the Mediterranean Sea between Israel, Lebanon, and Cyprus is going to create the need for some form of alternative dispute resolution between Israel and Lebanon because the extension of each country’s border in the Mediterranean is in dispute, which also places the natural gas in dispute.

Another resource that will need to be monitored in the future is sand. Yes, you read that correctly. Sand. Sand is being mined from the depths of the ocean to aid in construction around the world. This is one of the issues surrounding China building islands in the South China Sea.

It was a blast getting to meet these students and learn about the issues they are researching.

Givat Haviva/The Green Line

Israel Givat HavivaPicturesque grounds of Givat Haviva.
Givat Haviva muralMural at Givat Haviva. Figure on the left symbolizes Israel and figure on the right symbolizes refugees.

After meeting with the law students from Haifa University, we went to Givat Haviva. Givat Haviva is a learning center at the Center for Shared Society. This learning center was built on an old kibbutz. The Center for Shared Society was established by the Hashomer Hatzair Movement which is a socialist Zionist movement dedicated to bringing about peace in Israel between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Here, we met with Ran Kuttner and Lydia Aisenberg who spoke to us about the issues facing Israelis and Palestinians, the quest for peace between the two peoples and the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel-May13-GivatHaviva-wWith Lydia Aisenberg, overlooking the West Bank.

After meeting at Givat Haviva, Lydia took us on an excursion to a small mountain that overlooks the West Bank. From this point we were able to see down into a village that is split by the Green Line. The fence that now separates Israel from the West Bank is actually built more into the West Bank, rather than on the exact location of the Green Line between Israel and the West Bank. Lydia told us a heartbreaking story about one of her friends, a Palestinian father, whose son took a truck and rammed it into three Israeli soldiers killing all of them. The Palestinian father has never condoned violence against Israelis and has always tried to teach his children to work towards a peaceful resolution to the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Israel green lineView of Palestinian village split in two by the Green Line separating Israel from the West Bank.


Israel CarmelView from the Druze Village of Daliyat el Carmel in the Carmel Mountains. On clear days and nights, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan are all visible.

Our next stop took us to the Druze mountain village of Daliyat el Carmel in the Carmel Mountains. Here we were able to take in the breathtaking view atop this mountain and see nearly all of Israel below us. We were told that on really clear days and nights, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan can all be seen from atop the mountain, which really put into perspective how small Israel is, and how close these countries are to one another.

We had a traditional Druze dinner at a home in the Druze village. The dinner was amazing. The grape leaves and stuffed peppers were particularly good. While eating, we learned two very interesting things about the Druze.

First, when Israel became a country, the Druze pledged their loyalty to Israel as long as they were able to live and practice their religion in peace. Israel granted them this request for the trade-off that the Druze will participate in Israel’s military, the Israel Defense Forces or the IDF.

Second, the Druze religion is a complete mystery. This is because only Druze may learn the secrets of their religion. Outsiders are not allowed to learn about their religion. The only thing we were told about their religion is that it is a blend of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

Although the Druze are a minority group in Israel, with less than 150,000 living in Israel, they have integrated themselves into Israeli culture by being active in Parliament and serving in the IDF. Recently, the Druze have led protests against Israel’s nation-state law, which states that Israel is the nation-state of Jewish people, believing this law casts them aside as second-class citizens compared to their Jewish citizen-brothers. The Druze’s loyalty to Israel is echoed through the statements of Sheikh Muafak Tarif, the spiritual leader of the Druze in Israel, at one of the protests of this new law:

All our lives we took pride in an enlightened, democratic, and free state of Israel with the freedom and dignity of man as a supreme value. We never questioned the Jewish identity of the state. No one can teach us about sacrifice. No one can preach to us about loyalty. Military cemeteries and hundreds of fallen soldiers will testify to it. The same way we fight for the existence of the state, we are determined to fight for the right to live in equality and dignity. We are Israelis. We are brothers.

Because of these protests, many politicians originally voting for the law have come out and said that the law needs to be amended to recognize the Druze’s contributions to Israel. However, any compromise on the law will have to wait as Israel’s Parliament is in recess until October.

This night was an incredible learning experience about one of the minority groups in Israel that have made major contributions to Israeli statehood. It was really interesting to see how these people live and to experience just a taste of their culture.

This trip was an experience that I will never forget. Being able to immerse myself in another culture to learn about another part of the world was amazing. I’m really glad I took this trip and I hope that I will return to Israel at some point again in my life.

Israel May13 Isfiya Druze dinnerEnjoying dinner at the Druze village.