|Social Justice Lawyer Awarded Prof. Herman Schwartz Human Rights Prize for Curing Society's Ills|
|Written by Ruby Ong|
Prof. Herman Schwartz Human Rights Prize winner Gilad BarneaGilad Barnea began studying medicine at Hebrew University’s Hadassah School of Medicine but after three years decided to switch direction and study law at the Hebrew University's Faculty of Law. Barnea, 46, is the winner of this year's Prof. Herman Schwartz Human Rights Prize.
The Jerusalem-born human rights lawyer explains the passion which led to his career change: "Medicine interested me because I thought I could do good things. It has always been important for me to do significant things to help mankind. The main reason I moved over to law was because I understood that medicine is very hierarchical and any ability to influence is limited."
As a lawyer Barnea's influence has been enormous. A former legal counsel to NIF grantees Community Advocacy: Genesis Israel and Yedid – The Association for Community Empowerment, he also worked pro-bono for NIF grantee Jerusalem Open House for six years, winning legal battles on municipal budgeting for the city's gay community. He has won precedent-setting court rulings on the equitable allocation of government budgets, public housing and much more, but is best known for his Supreme Court petition which prevented the government from privatizing Israel's prisons.
The prizewinners are chosen for their work to promote human rights and social justice in Israel, and based on professional achievements and the quality of the candidate's contribution in the field of civil rights. Previous recipients include Dr. Neta Ziv, Director of Clinical Education Programs at Tel Aviv University, and former NIF board Vice-Chair in Israel.
In awarding the prize, NIF’s Executive Director in Israel Rachel Liel praised Barnea's work "to change and improve the face of society through the law."Herman Schwartz, Professor of Constitutional Law, is the founder and ongoing mentor of NIF’s Israel-U.S. Civil Liberties Law Program. The two-year fellowship includes a year in DC, studying at American University’s Washington College of Law and interning with leading U.S. civil and human rights organizations, and a year working with a public interest organization in Israel. The alumni of the program have become the leading legal minds of Israel’s progressive legal and nonprofit community, breaking new ground on a wide range of issues including the rights of minority citizens, disability law, children’s rights, religious freedom, the environment and individual civil rights.