Former Supreme Court Judge Tzvi Tal has passed away at 94

Judge Tal was highly critical of judicial overreach. Tal Commission regulating entry of haredim into IDF bears his name.

Ido Ben Porat ,

Justice Tzvi Tal
Justice Tzvi Tal
Miriam Alster/FLASH90

Former Supreme Court Justice Tzvi Tal has passed away. He was 94 years old.

The funeral will take place at six o’clock this evening at Kehillat Yerushalayim in Givat Shaul. The family is sitting shivah at 1, Breuer Street, in the Bayit Vegan neighborhood of Jerusalem.

Judge Tal was perhaps most widely known for heading the “Tal Commission” which drafted new legislation for the entrance of haredi youth into the army. The law the commission drew up became known as the Tal Law.

Tzvi Tal was married to Chana, the daughter of the journalist Dov Natan Brinker and granddaughter of the renowned Jerusalem scribe Eliyahu Yosef Rivlin. The couple had six children; one son, Moshe, was killed during the Yom Kippur War. Tzvi’s brother, Dr. Shlomo Tal, edited the popular Rinat Yisrael siddur (prayer book).

Judge Tal was born in Poland and immigrated to Israel with his parents at the age of eight. He was among the first group of boys to learn at the Bnei Akiva yeshiva in Kfar Haroeh, and later fought with the Haganah and the IDF.

After studying law at the Hebrew University, Tal worked as a lawyer for 25 years. In 1978 he was appointed as a judge in the Jerusalem District Court, and then in 1994, he was appointed to the Supreme Court.

Justice Tal was among those who saw the Supreme Court as intervening excessively in the functioning of the State. “The judges weren’t appointed for that,” he once said. “They do not have that responsibility, and if they say something ridiculous and it turns out that it was in fact ridiculous, they won’t have to answer for it. It’s no wonder that there are those who call this a judicial dictatorship. The Supreme Court has so much power that it has gone way too far in many matters.”

Tal also knew how to criticize the legislature, and sharply condemned the decision to “disengage” from Gaza. “This was a terrible crime,” he said at the time, “to uproot and expel innocent citizens – people who were sent there by the State, not by the Likud or the right wing. A third generation grew up there, and they absorbed thousands of shrapnel fragments and paid a personal price.”

Tal was a member of the District Court panel that ruled on the death penalty for John Ivan Demjanjuk, also known as “Ivan the Terrible,” who was convicted of heinous crimes against Jews during the Holocaust. Also sitting on the panel were Justices Dov Levin and Dalya Dorner.

Upon hearing of his passing, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked (Yamina) said: “I was saddened at the news this morning of the passing of Justice Tal. He was a man of truth and faith within the justice system, someone who at every juncture knew how to listen and respond to the sensitivities of the general public. He was also a bereaved father, and raised an exemplary family. Baruch Dayan Ha’emet. I send my consolations to the family.”

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar stated: “I was distressed to hear of the passing of former Supreme Court Justice Tzvi Tal. He immigrated to Israel from Poland and merited to serve in the Haganah and later in the IDF. He lost his son, Moshe, in the Yom Kippur War. He sat in judgement on many important cases and yet always remained humble, with a Jewish, Zionist, and legal conscience. My consolations to his family.”