Gabriela Shalev, one of the outstanding Israeli academicians in the field of law, has instructed innumerable students in the intricacies of contract law, on which she has published and lectured in the light of her own analyses and theories.
Shalev’s father, Bernard Manheim, who was born in 1913, immigrated to Palestine from Germany in 1933. In 1938 he married Bella Peterseil, who was born in Poland in 1912 and whose parents moved to Germany when she was one year old. They perished in the Holocaust. Bernhard and Bella lived in Tel Aviv, where he worked in food while Bella cared for their home and their two daughters, Gabriela (b. 1941) and Nurit (b. 1945).
When she was twelve years old Gabriela first met Shaul Shalev (b. 1940), whom she again encountered when she began studying at the Tel Aviv Municipal High School A. They married in October 1964 and were thenceforth inseparable until his heroic death in the Yom Kippur war of 1973. Gabriela herself had joined the Israel Defense Forces in August 1959, serving as a patrol leader, a platoon commander and finally as the first commander of a company of conscripts of the kind that had previously not been drafted either because they knew no Hebrew or because of their generally low level of education.
In 1966 Gabriela Shalev completed her studies for an LL.B. degree at the Law School of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem summa cum laude, after clerking for two years, first with Supreme Court Justice Joel Sussman and then, for six months, in the legal department of the Jewish Agency for Israel. She continued her studies in Jerusalem and in 1966 also gave birth to a daughter, Narkiss. In 1969 she completed her LL.M. degree, again summa cum laude, and continued to doctoral studies on the subject of exemption clauses in contracts, under Professor G. Tedeschi. Her thesis was completed in 1973, summa cum laude. In 1970 she gave birth to a son, Eran.
All this while, Shaul Shalev, who was both a soldier and a scholar, was serving as an officer in the tank corps of the IDF. When the Yom Kippur War erupted in October 1973 he was in Sinai with the brigade under his command. Having single-handedly rescued a group of thirty-five Israeli soldiers who had been encircled by enemy forces, he volunteered to lead the attempt to recapture an Israeli position. Hit by a shell, he died instantly on October 9, the third day of the war.
At this difficult time in her life, Gabriela Shalev thought of switching from law to medicine, because she wanted to engage in a constructive, healing profession. But since, as the mother of two young children, this proved impractical, she instead went to Harvard Law School for two years of post-doctoral research (1975–1976). Since 1986 she has lived with her partner Uzzi Levy (b. 1938). In 1986 she was promoted to the rank of full professor in the Law School of the Hebrew University.
The topic in which Shalev specializes and which is the subject of most of her work is the Law of Contracts. Her latest book on this subject is The Law of Contract—General Part (Hebrew, 2005). Her former books on Contract Law were milestones in Israeli contract law and were published in several editions. She has also lectured and written on “gentleman’s agreements,” British contract law, comparative law, the impact of basic laws on private law, contracts in favor of a third party, breach of contracts, contracts and tenders of the public authorities etc. She perceives the Law of Contracts as being the very essence of civil law and the basis on which the latter is founded. So far as she is concerned, it is the most analytical of all the areas of law.
Shalev served from 1981 to 1984 as the director of the Harry Sacher Institute for Legislative Research and Comparative Law in the Faculty of Law of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. A member of the Standard Contracts Tribunal since 1983, she has been a member of the committee on Codification in Civil Law since 1984. She has been a guest professor at numerous universities, including Temple University in Philadelphia, Boston College, Tulane University in New Orleans, Glasgow University, University of Toronto, Leuven University and Freiburg University. Since 2002 she has been professor emerita at the Hebrew University and the president of Ono Academic College in Kiryat Ono.
Due to her expertise in civil law in general and the law of contracts in particular, as well as her growing involvement in public affairs, Shalev has served and continues to serve on the boards of directors of numerous public bodies, including the boards of the newspaper Ma’ariv (1991), Bank Hapo’alim, where she also headed the comptroller committee (1991–1996), the Israel Democracy Institute (since 1991), the Electric Corporation (1995–2004) and the Hadassah Medical Organization (1996–2000). Since 2003, she has served as a board member of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Osem Investments (since 2001) and Koor Industries (since 1999). Shalev also serves on a voluntary basis as a member of numerous public, governmental and non-governmental committees.
The high esteem in which she is held in academia is evidenced by awards such as the Sussman Law Prize (1989) and the Zeltner Law Prize (1991). She has participated in numerous international conferences, frequently serving as Israel’s official representative. But the major focus of her professional work is research and teaching. Her engagement in the academic aspects of law—teaching and publishing—is the crowning achievement of her wide-ranging and varied professional activity.
Law of Contract (Hebrew). Jerusalem: 1995; The Law of Public Procurements (Hebrew). Jerusalem: 1999; “Contract Law, Israel.” International Encyclopaedia of Law. The Hague: 2000; The Law of Contract: General Part, Towards Codification of the Civil Law (Hebrew). Jerusalem: 2005.