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 Dead Sea Ein Bokek mud May17

Visiting the Dead Sea with ​Dr. Clive Lipchin

Posted by Brandon Cofield, J.D. '​​20

I missed the opportunity to participate in an international program as an undergraduate. So naturally, I was determined to experience a new culture and legal system this time around. I filled out my application to enroll in one of the Global Lawyering programs on the day the application was released, and it was one of the best experiences of my 1L year.

Before the international portion of our course, we learned about Israeli history, issues, and customs during our weekly classes, but the presenters’ words did not do the country justice. The complexity of the social systems and legal issues mirrored those in the U.S., but potential solutions to problems differ because Israel does not have a Constitution.

Although living the experience is the only way to grasp the moment fully, I was tasked with providing a glimpse into our amazing second to last day in Israel when we met Dr. Clive Lipchin, director of the Center for Transboundary Water Management at the Arava Institute, and visited the Dead Sea.

Israel dead sea lido beachSite of the abandoned Lido resort where the Dead Sea shoreline used to reach the paved ledge.

The deepest place on earth did not disappoint! We met Prof. Lipchin at the Lido Junction inside the West Bank. Lido was once a popular tourist destination, but the receding water level of the Dead Sea has moved the shoreline hundreds of yards from its location when the city was a part of the Kingdom of Jordan.

Prof. Lipchin explained to us that the Dead Sea receives one-tenth of the fresh water that formerly enabled it to maintain an equilibrium with evaporation, due to the numerous dams and canals that now restrict the flow of water down the Jordan River. Solutions to the Dead Sea issue will take a conscious effort on the part of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Jordanian and Israeli governments and people. Prof. Lipchin further explained the potential impact of the RED-DEAD and MED-DEAD projects to stabilize the Dead Sea and prevent the further retreat of the saltwater table which is causing the creation of sinkholes.

Israel May17 Dead SeaAt the Dead Sea Lido Junction, once a popular beachfront resort before waters receded. Dr. Clive Lipchin (on left) explains current projects to stabilize the area.

En route to our other stops, we stopped along the Jordan River at the site believed to be where John the Baptist baptized Jesus.

Prof. Lipchin explained that this location, like many others in the region, is subject to pollution and other environmental challenges despite receiving millions of visitors annually from all over the world. Both the Jordanian and Israeli government work together to make sure that this site remains accessible to tourists by adding fresh water to ensure safe water quality.

The site was moving for many of the students, with two electing to be baptized there.

Israel baptism site 20180517Israel student baptisms 20180517Israel Qasr al Yahud Baptismal SiteQasr al Yahud baptismal site

Next we went to Mineral Beach. The beach was owned by the local Kibbutz and was a popular tourist destination where Prof. Lipchin used to bring students until the sinkholes destroyed the parking lot and surrounding areas. The unpredictable nature of sinkholes rendered the property useless, and the area serves as an example of what will happen to the remaining establishments around the Dead Sea unless immediate action is taken. Currently, there are 6,000 reported sinkholes on the Israeli side of the Dead Sea and people are working tirelessly to prevent further damage to the region.

We spent the remaining portion of the day visiting one of the few beaches on the Dead Sea still open to the public. Prof. Lipchin explained the economic and public health threats that the sinkholes pose to people who live further south along the Dead Sea since there is only one road in and one road out of the area.

Israel Mineral Beach 20180517Israel Dead Sea sinkholes May17 Israel Dead Sea Mineral Beach nowMineral Beach

Afterwards, many of us swam in the Dead Sea, which was one of my favorite experiences in Israel. As the deepest place on earth, where there is almost no rainfall and extreme evaporation exists, the salinity of the water is far higher than anywhere else in the world. As a result, after the water reaches your waist, you begin to float! It had been a long time since I enjoyed playing in mud and water, but floating in the Dead Sea was something I had to experience myself. After floating around for a while, many of us decided to take advantage of the resource rich mud along the shoreline and applied the mud to ourselves as a means of removing impurities. One colleague alleges that it helped his sunburn from the previous day, but that is yet to be scientifically proven!

Israel Dead Sea Cofield 20180517Blogger Brandon Cofield, J.D. '20 (on left), gives a floating Gig' em! in the Dead Sea