Monday, May 02, 2011

Israeli Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran Speaks at UChicago

Today I attended a lunch talk by Salim Joubran, the first Israeli Arab to serve on the Israeli Supreme Court. Justice Joubran was invited by the Jewish Law Students Association (with the assistance of various Chicago Jewish organizations), and gave a very interesting speech on his perspective as a Justice and the role of the Court in protecting human rights for all of Israel's citizens. He also informed us that, because Talmudic Law is a source of Israel law, he is actually quite well versed in classical Jewish legal thought (he traded lessons with a Jewish friend, teaching the latter how to speak Arabic).

I noted that, unlike the last time a top Israeli official visited our campus, there were no protests that I could see. That could be because his visit was less publicized, but it also served as a data point regarding whether folks are interested in protesting Israelis, or just Israeli Jews.

Meanwhile, my favorite moment came when someone asked about emerging issues before the 15-member Supreme Court. One of the topics he raised was the question, "who is a Jew" -- often an easy question, but often surprisingly difficult. Justice Joubran mischievously noted the possibility that the other 14 justices on the Court might split on the question 7-7, and the official decision regarding "who is a Jew" in the land of Israel might come down to him, a Maronite Christian (good thing he's been reading up on the Talmud!).

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