Israel's Supreme Court
Israel's Supreme CourtIsrael News Photo: (file)

The Supreme Court rarely makes use of Jewish law in its rulings, according to a study released this week. The study found that Supreme Court President Justice Dorit Beinisch was the most averse to using Jewish sources.

The study was conducted by Doctor Yuval Sinai of Yishma, the Implementation of Hebrew Law group at Netanya Academic College.

Dr. Sinai found that the frequency at which Jewish law was used as a source when deciding cases varied widely, depending on the judge in question. Justice Elyakim Rubenstein was most likely to quote Jewish sources, Sinai found, and did so in 77 rulings, which constituted 27 percent of his total rulings.

Court President Dorit Beinisch, on the other extreme, quoted a Jewish source in just a single ruling. “Not only that, but she clearly took efforts to avoid quoting Biblical verses or Talmudic sources in her rulings,” Sinai said. In addition, he said, Beinisch expressed displeasure on at least one occasion with Rubenstein's use of Biblical verse in his verdicts.

Deputy-President, Justice Eliezer Rivlin was also unlikely to quote Jewish sources, and has done so only twice, Sinai found.

Sinai also examined the behavior of past judges and found that Justices Jacob Turkel and Mishael Cheshin were both relatively likely to quote Jewish sources, with 18 percent and 12 percent of their rulings respectively citing Jewish law. Former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak quoted Jewish law in six percent of his rulings.

Jewish law is one of the sources to which justices are asked to refer, along with international law, treaties signed by Israel, and legal precedent in other countries.

The Supreme Court, as the High Court of Justice, has often been asked to rule on subjects relating to Jewish practice in the state of Israel, such as the question of whether conversions performed by non-orthodox Jewish groups should be recognized as valid for purposes of aliyah (immigration), whether same-sex marriages performed abroad will be recognized in Israel, and whether Christians of Jewish descent who consider themselves Jewish should be allowed to immigrate to Israel as Jews.