Working with the family of an Israeli girl who died of gun­shot wounds in the West Bank inspired third-​​year law stu­dent Leigh Sapir to pursue a master’s degreein con­flict medi­a­tion at the Uni­ver­sity of Tel-​​Aviv.

I don’t know if I’d be applying for a master’s or thinking about post-​​grad in Israel had I not had this expe­ri­ence,” said Sapir, who over the summer worked aco-​​op job for the Tel-​​Aviv based Israel Law Center, a human rights insti­tute that part­ners with vol­un­teer lawyers rep­re­senting alleged vic­tims of terrorism.

For one case, she was tasked with inter­viewing the Israeli girl’s family and crafting an affi­davit recounting the story. The Law Center was bringing a civil suit against Hamas, a Pales­tinian mil­i­tant move­ment based in the Gaza Strip, for allegedly killing the young Israeli on a family drive across the border of the West Bank town of Ramallah and Haifa.

Sapir’s co-​​op expe­ri­ence on the Israeli Mediter­ranean coast con­firmed her pas­sion for human rights law and changed her per­spec­tive on prac­ticing law—especially with lives at stake.

Prac­ticing cor­po­rate law, I felt a void between being a lawyer and being a person,” she explained. “But this expe­ri­ence con­firmed that I could be both a lawyer and a person and do mean­ingful work that has an impact.

In law school, every­thing is handed to you in a serious, fac­tual way, but you have to keep a level-​​headed mindset and make sure you don’t lose the human side of the story,” she said, noting that the case against Hamas is still pending and could take years for a resolution.

Sapir, who studied polit­ical sci­ence and inter­na­tional rela­tions as an under­grad­uate at the Uni­ver­sity of Southern Cal­i­fornia, spent the bulk of her time at the Center researching and turning out memos to senior asso­ciates on com­par­a­tive law in the United States, where many of the institute’s vol­un­teer lawyers are based, and writing affi­davits on alleged ter­rorist attacks, such as sui­cide bomb­ings at Jerusalem marketplaces.

Growing up, Sapir spent her sum­mers in Tel-​​Aviv, immersing her­self in what she calls the “layers and layers of dif­ferent faiths, cul­tures and polit­ical ideas” of the region. While in Israel for the co-​​op, news reports of Israel’s con­flict with Gaza and Lebanon brought an intense imme­diacy to the day-​​to-​​day lives of the Israeli people, she noted.

There are so many con­flicts going on that Israelis have learned to live with them,” she said.

Someday soon, Sapir hopes to do a clerk­ship with the Israeli Supreme Court, or hold a posi­tion with the Inter­na­tional Crim­inal Tri­bunal for the former Yugoslavia, a United Nations court of law focusing on war crimes that took place amid the con­flicts in the Balkans.

I’m just one person in a big world, and I have to follow my pas­sions and dreams and take things even­hand­edly,” she said.

Before working at the Law Center, Sapir com­pleted a co-​​op at a cor­po­rate law firm in Tel-​​Aviv, from December 2008 to March 2009.