Women representatives in the Courts: Chief Rabbi in Opposition

Women representatives in the Courts: Chief Rabbi in Opposition

Aliza Lavie states; ‘We will continue the dialogue and cooperation and we will not desist until we have achieved the desired outcome.’

In recent weeks, MK Lavie has promoted a proposed bill to allow women who have relevant and appropriate experience as well as Halachik (Jewish Legal) expertise to serve as public representatives, sitting alongside judges in order to ease and thus improve the situation for women who appear before the Court. During the Knesset Plenum, MK Azoulay promised to provide an opportunity to examine the matter along with the Chief Rabbi. In a letter that was first published on the ‘Walla Website,’ it was reported that the Chief Rabbi strongly objected this proposal.

MK Lavie: ‘This is an amendment that will benefit both the public, the litigants and the status of the Rabbanic Courts. The Rabbi’s response is unfortunate; however, we will continue the dialogue until this is amended.’

During the debate in the Knesset plenum, MK Lavie presented a Bill to include women as public representatives in the Rabbinical Courts, and the Minister responsible thus far, has not outwardly reject the proposal, stating that it would need to be examined in accordance to Jewish law in consultation with the relevant and authorized Rabbi’s.

Today’s reality suggests that approximately half of those who enter the courts are women, however, women’s voices are not present, since according to Halacha, they are unable to serve as witnesses and judges, thus no woman has been appointed Director of the Courts. This can create, in many cases, an unpleasant experience and does not attest to the court system’s opacity, especially when one finds themselves having to answer personal questions in sensitive situations, in a completely masculine environment.

The purpose of this proposal is to appoint representatives of the public alongside the Dayanim with a ‘personal’ form of status in the courts, similar to public representatives currently serving in the labor courts, thus facilitating and improving experiences of women.  According to the proposal, each case involving the Rabbinical Court will include a Dayan and two public representatives, familiar with Jewish law. A potential candidate for this position of public representative must have at least five years of experience in representing the courts or family courts and must not have either a criminal or disciplinary record.

In response to this proposal the Chief Rabbi published a letter on the Walla Israel Website claiming that this proposal is slanderous towards the courts.

MK Lavie comments, ‘The Bill that I have initiated intends to alleviate the distress and discomfort experienced by women in the face of the Rabbanic courts, this Bill has not been proposed to harm Jewish Law or the Judges. Today, despite half the litigants being women, their voice cannot expressed – they are unable to serve as judges, and thus far no woman has been appointed as Director of the Courts. In order to strengthen trust within the system, we must bring about change. The negative response from some is most regrettable as this proposal was born out of a sincere and genuine attempts to bring about an amendment that will benefit both the litigants and the system, taking into consideration all of the complexities involved. We hope that this is only the beginning of a very much needed dialogue which will eventually lead to desired change.

The speech in the Knesset Plenum below:


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