Much more activist. Let's say there are questions—lawyers ask themselves whether they should get arrested while protesting, how much should they participate with their clients, what is the limit? I took on a lot of cases for people with mental disabilities. I decided to go all the way, to be an extreme lawyer, and to teach lawyering in a very different manner. It was very overwhelming, very interesting. Obviously what I always "preached" is not that my students should all be engaged solely in Pro Bono
activities, but that they should try to do some good work as lawyers, try to see things differently. In a way, that was the most important thing that I have done that led to what I'm doing now because it taught me about the limits of being a lawyer.
Then I went to New York University, I received a scholarship from New York University to be a public service scholar, which is a new program, usually for lawyers that are human rights activists in Third World countries. Ten lawyers participate every year, and they have to have a certain amount of experience. I was, I think, one of the youngest in my class. It was an eye-opening experience, and I was very fortunate to meet professor Alex Boraine,
who was the co-chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa,
and I ended up working under him throughout the year and later receiving a fellowship from NYU to work with his organization, the International Center for Transitional Justice
after I finished my studies.
I discovered, reading the Oslo Accords, that they are very legalistic. Legal thinking has failed us throughout the process. This is the best example of the limitations of legal work. Lawyers can only go so far. You can make a contract and treaties, but changing the perception of people is so much more complicated and demands so much more than legal work. One of the things that was eye opening for me was Boraine's reaction. We discussed, obviously, what was happening in the Middle East and he said, "You know that Uri Savir,"
he was one of the architects of the Oslo Accords-- "in his book talks about how they decided jointly, the Palestinians and Israelis, not to do anything with the past, just to draw a line in the sand and to move to a better future without negotiating the past." And that was overwhelming, given that I'd just spent a year studying what was done in Sri Lanka, in Argentina, in South Africa, in Rwanda—all these places where people negotiated the past in different ways were in sharp contrast to what was done here with regard to the Oslo process. For me it was very clear that I should give up my lawyering skills for a bit and try to do something else.
I returned to Israel about two years ago, more than that, and spent all the time working on, thinking about and writing extensively about reconciliation and transitional justice. I've done several things, I've written quite extensively but I haven't published anything because I don't want reconciliation to be moved into the media as "the new kid on the block" and to give it fifteen minutes of glory and then say, "oh it failed," and "I'm sorry, reconciliation is not for us." That's the big risk. And one of the things I truly believe, taking it directly from the work of George Lakoff, who is a scholar, a linguist at Berkeley, who has done a lot of work on politics and political speech, that there are some concepts which you cannot just speak about. You have to spend a lot of time making sure people realize them because they are so complicated, and reconciliation is one of them. I spent the last three or four years talking and thinking and dreaming of reconciliation, and it's still really in the very first stages for me personally, I'm not talking about anyone else. But I do feel that there's something important here. My work with the bereaved parents came about because I was searching for an organization that could instigate it. And I was sure there was none. I was talking with many Palestinian and Israeli NGOs,
most of whom I knew already, and people were saying to me, you know it's great but...