News and Information
March 29, 2015

From the Desk of the President—Midyear Legal Seminar

On Friday March 27th, we canceled the Virginia State Bar's planned Midyear Legal Seminar trip to Israel.  The decision was based primarily on a U.S. State Department advisory:  http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/israel.html, "Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements."  We were forced to conclude there were potential difficulties some of our VSB members might face in obtaining entry to Israel.  Additionally, we were well short of the required number of confirmed attendees necessary for the trip to proceed. 

President-elect Edward L. Weiner, chair of the Midyear Legal Seminar Committee, communicated with the Israeli Embassy.  An embassy official expressed a desire to facilitate the trip but acknowledged that security protocols are strict and could lead to exclusion or restriction of some VSB members. 

In the face of this information, we felt it necessary and appropriate to forego this trip.  This was not a political decision and is not a "boycott."  We are an inclusive organization and do not discriminate against any religion.

Unfortunately, some mischaracterized this decision as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic, even going so far as to mislabel it as a "boycott."  Although the message was sent over the president's signature, we jointly drafted and approved what was sent Friday night.  Apparently we could have done a better job of explaining the situation and decision. We are writing now to provide further clarity.

Our decision was not based on any political factors or influences.  We understand that Israel is in a difficult position when it comes to security.  We are not expressing opinions regarding Israel's border security measures.  We are merely recognizing the reality that our very large and diverse membership, consisting of well over 40,000 members, includes individuals who may encounter lengthy examination and possible rejection in attempting to navigate the immigration security procedures in Israel. 

You may recall that on March 25, 2015, we sent a message urging VSB members to sign up for both the Israel trip and the Annual Meeting in Virginia Beach.  We very much wanted the Israel trip to be a success and were trying to reach the required number of participants for it to be a go.  We deeply regret that a combination of circumstances led to the trip's cancellation, and we also regret that our good faith efforts and decisions may have been misinterpreted and misunderstood. 

We remain committed to the core objectives of the VSB:  public protection, access to justice and improvement of the legal profession.  Thank you for reading and thank you for allowing us the privilege of serving.

Kevin E. Martingayle, President                               

Edward L. Weiner, President-elect & Chair, Midyear Legal Seminar Committee      

Updated: Mar 29, 2015