Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Parting Shot

Aharon Barak, a giant in Israeli legal circles, is retiring from his position as Chief Justice of the Israeli Supreme Court. In his role there, he has played an intricate role in strengthening the protections for Israeli minority groups (as well as Palestinians), with key oversight of the separation barrier to attempt to minimize the damage it does to Palestinian civilian life. He will be sorely missed, but it appears his successor plans to follow in much the same direction, which is heartening news.

In one of his final decisions, Barak led the court in holding that religious courts could not annul marriages between a Jewish and non-Jewish partner. Israel's mixture of religious courts into family law stem from rules dating back to the Ottoman Empire's control over the region, inheirited by the British colonial mandate and then rolled over to Israel when it became independent. It currently stays do to joint support by religious Jews and Muslims in the Knesset, who want to maintain this institutional prerogative. Even still, this mix of Synagogue (/Mosque/Church) and State is an embarassement to a free country, and I am glad that it's grip has been weakened considerably by this ruling.

I believe in Israel as a Jewish state, but not as a theocratic state. Remember that non-Orthodox Jews (such as myself) aren't considered full religious Jews in Israel either. So I have a stake in ending this arbitrary discrimination as well. Fortunately, the trend lines appear to be moving in my direction. But pressure has to continue on this front.

1 comment:

David said...

Not to defend the Israeli status quo, but to nitpick/clarify - it's not that you're not considered a "full religious Jew" (although that's not a precisely defined term) - it's that the only branch of Judaism which is officially recognized is Orthodox.

i.e. it's the heterodox movements, not the people who affiliate with heterodox movements, whose legitimacy is challenged.