July/August 2005 issue

How I Spent My Summer Vacation Or West Bank Experiences

by Suzanne Morrison, Branch Librarian, Fargo

Remember those hot, dusty September days when you were chained to your desk itching to go out for recess? The assignment for the afternoon was to write about your summer vacation. Growing up in a rural farming area, my summer vacation meant baling hay, walking bean fields, and weeding the garden.

I hit the jackpot this year, though, when I spent my summer vacation in the West Bank working with law professors, law librarians, lawyers from the Palestinian Bar Association and Palestinian law students as part of a USAID program. The purpose of the program was to introduce legal research into the legal curriculum and to conduct the first conference of Palestinian Law Librarians. Visiting the law schools and law libraries from the north to the south required passing through numerous checkpoints and weaving back and forth around the Wall to reach our destinations.

The law professors met with me for a day-long conference and were very encouraging in their desire to learn about legal research. The law schools in the West Bank date back to only 1992, and so the majority of Palestinians in the legal profession were educated in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon or another Arabic country. These attorneys brought back with them an assortment of laws. Standardizing this material is a job that the librarians have been pursuing using electronic methods.

The conference with the law librarians focused on building a network and consortium of all libraries centering on legal information. By the end of the librarian conference, we had formulated a three year strategic vision with an action plan allowing for several options that could be implemented immediately. Unfortunately, most of the members of this dynamic group live in the Occupied Territory and could not meet during off-hours, since their passports did not allow them to cross the checkpoints into Jerusalem where I was staying. In Jerusalem I sat on my balcony at night and listened to the call to prayer emanating through the dark. I wondered what it must be like to live in a country that has suffered so much turmoil. My prayer is for peace and a resolution that allows a homeland for everyone.

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