Jewish Law to be cited in legal cases?

Bill allowing judges to use Jewish law as a legal source during complex legal battles passes final Knesset reading.

Tzvi Lev,

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A bill allowing jurists to invoke Jewish law during legal battles passed its third and final reading in the Knesset by a vote of 39-32.

The law, which was sponsored by MK Nissan Slomianski (Jewish Home), instructs judges to "turn to the principles of freedom, justice, and peace as espoused by Jewish law in addition to turning to the principles of the Jewish tradition" when current legislation does not provide an adequate answer.

A version of this bill had already been passed as part of the Basic Law: The Judiciary in 1984 but has been sparingly used by Israel's legal system due to its unclear applications.

The bill had aroused controversy from opposition MKs, who alleged that its passage would pave Israel's transformation from a democracy to a state governed solely by Jewish law.

"How can you force a person who does not believe in God, a law that is different from the law of a democratic state, which was not accepted by an elected representative and does not meet the criteria of democracy?" asked MK Meirav Michaeli (Zionist Union).

"In what democratic state could this law be imposed on its citizens" continued Michaeli, who contended that Jewish law "does not recognize equality, not between Jews and non-Jews, and not between men and women".

MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) stated that the real goal of the law "is to change the foundations of the judicial system, to distance the system as much as possible from advanced concepts of democracy and to make the system more nationalist, conservative and religious."

However, Slomianski dismissed the criticism, saying that he merely wanted to enable Israeli's justices to add Jewish law into their repertoire when invoking international legal precedents.

"Instead of a judge running to the legal system used in different places all over the world, let him look at Jewish law," said Slomianski, who stressed that the newly-passed legislation did not force the legal system to use Jewish precepts.

"If you want to use it, use it, if not then use your best judgment and do what you understand," added Slomianski. "This is not a revolution and there is nothing here that should scare people. Even the opposition can be for justice and peace."




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