Saturday, June 22, 2013

Ending two weeks' radio silence

Now that I am back in the U.S., I am happy to end my more than 2 weeks without a blog post.  I’ve been in Israel, as mentioned in previous posts, and when I was in my hotel and on-line (which required being in the lobby) I was having some technical difficulties signing in.  I probably could have figured out how to solve the problem, but I was fairly busy running around anyway.

I was staying up in the Mount Scopus area, near Hebrew University’s law school, at which I had a teaching gig.  I was supposed to have 5 classes over the two week period, meeting for 2 hours & 20 minutes each, but on the third day the students pitched to me the idea of lengthening classes 3 and 4 so that I could cancel class 5 without loss of overall class time.  A half hour was all that I could add to class 3, given the amount of material I had prepared and the fact that some of the students (I had about 14 in all) needed to leave, but I agreed to make class 4 a marathon, running for 4 hours total though with 2 short breaks.  (So it was three consecutive sessions of about 1 hour and 15 minutes each over a four-hour period.)  I told them that, while this would be pretty tough for me, it would be even tougher for them, as listening to someone for 4 hours can be harder than talking for that length of time.  But I think we got through it OK. 

The topic of the lectures (with some questions and discussion) was U.S. corporate and international taxation, emphasizing aspects of the U.S. system that are widespread rather than idiosyncratic, and trying to blend discussion of real world practice and planning issues with applied economic theory.  Most of the students had only had a basic class in individual income taxation, but I aimed to adjust for that, and I thought it went OK.  Early in a teaching career you learn not to under-prepare.  Later on, you learn not to over-prepare, so that you can respond more flexibly to the students and to what is happening in front of you.

Classes met in the afternoon, generally at either 2 or 4 pm.  So even on class days, I could do other things early in the day.  Generally on class days, as well as open days when I didn’t have a more long-range travel plan, I would walk down from Mount Scopus to the Old City of Jerusalem – about 2 to 3 miles down.  While going back up was obviously the same length, it felt much longer, what with the climb and mid-afternoon heat.  Wailing Wall, Dome on the Rock, City of David, the markets inside the walls, etc.

Usually I’d be pretty tired by the end of the day, but at least I was getting some exercise.  And I wouldn't complain, even to myself, about the heat and the Sun (which could be pretty rough if I was trudging steeply uphill at 2 pm), given how much more I would have disliked the cool and rainy weather that I gather New York has had much of the time.

In addition to seeing a lot of the Old City, the main markets, and the main tourist sites around Jerusalem (including the Zoo and the Israel Museum, which has a great Herod show right now, as his tomb was recently found), I also spent a couple of days in Tel Aviv, and went on visits to Jericho, Bethlehem, and Herodion (the site of Herod’s tomb).  There are quite a few more great tourist sites in Israel, but many of them I had seen already in earlier visits.  And since Jericho et al are in the Palestinian Territories, I got to see the wall, cars and workers passing through it, etcetera.

My final event of the two-week stay, earlier today (Friday as I write this), was a symposium at Hebrew University concerning my international tax book.  But I will save that for a separate blog post.

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