Thursday, December 11, 2014

There are no Judges in Jerusalem!

No Judges
One of the immediate ramifications of the decision to hold elections and the resulting dispersal of the government is the abolition of the Committee for Appointing Rabbinical Judges, since the chairwoman of the committee, the Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, was fired (below we will call her Tz.L. for short). Tz.L. brands herself as a savior of personal human rights and as the knight of the absolute authority of the law. She was even the recipient of an outrageous "medal" for these characteristics from the State Attorney (when he showed his political support for her at the approach of the elections). She also provided one of the reasons given for dispersing the government with her harsh war against the "Jewish National state law" for the reason that it is contrary to the Israel Declaration of Independence. The appointment of new rabbinical court judges will now be delayed for at least another eight months.
Tz.L. thus stands accused of raising her hand in support of a "deal" that is diametrically opposed to the ideal of "rights" which she espouses. She stands accused of forfeiting her principles, which demand that she take care of those who need help from the religious court system, in order to satisfy shady political interests. She stands accused of "treason" against women's organizations who cried out for the support of judges who would be more considerate of their needs. And why did she do all these things? It is because Tz.L. wants to "hug" the Chareidi sector in return for their support of her political plans. It is a case of Abbu Mazan in return for dayanim (rabbinical judges) of Yisrael, and so on.
Here is a summary of the situation, based on media reports and an added dose of my own "personal knowledge." The rabbinical court system is on the verge of collapse because of a tremendous lack of staff during the last year, of six High Court judges (out of nine) and about fifteen judges in the district courts (out of about ninety). I assume that Tz.L. applauds loudly at the end of every movie shown in the Cinemateq which reviles the rabbinical courts for the very long delays in bringing cases to an end (such as the highly-publicized movie "Get" – see below). If she had done her job and filled the vacancies in the rabbinical court system, this entire line of criticism would have been invalidated. However, in any case, my main complaint is not about excessive time delays but about the wheeling and dealing that has been going on.
The Audacity of Involvement
Positions as judges are a subject for political negotiations and for a constant struggle between religious and Chareidi factions. Every sector claims, "The righteous man will rest his head on me" – and my people are the ones who deserve fame, honor, salaries, and improved work conditions. But now, after tremendous and almost earth-shattering efforts, an agreement was reached to divide the spoils in thirds – to the Chareidim, to Shas, and to religious nationalists. Up to this point we might tolerate the situation, even though in principle the Minister who keeps the seals should by all rights insist that the appointments should be consistent with capabilities and standard criteria. But we can let this pass. The real scandal, the treasonous disregard for principles and the personal responsibility of Tz.L., involves the fact thatshe agreed to a veto by Shas and the Chareidim of the candidates from among the "knitted kippa" sector! With typical patronizing "chutzpah" ("the Torah is mine and mine alone!"), the Chareidim stubbornly vetoed several candidates who are close to the Tzohar Rabbis, in spite of their proven excellence, capabilities, and suitable temperament for the job. These men were banned – with the support of the Minister of Justice who espoused the ideals of personal rights – for the single reason that they support or have some connection to Tzohar. Isn't this act by Tz.L. and act of treason against her own high principles?
In addition to Tz.L.'s above surrender to the demands of the Chareidim, something occurred that is even worse. One of the candidates for the High Court, recommended by the religious nationalists, is Rabbi Uriel Lavie, a resident of Keshet. He is a seasoned and excellent court president. And in spite of his close relationship with the great rabbis of the Chareidi world, he was "banned from serving" because of a ruling where he released the wife of a coma-bound man from her existence as an "agunah," chained in an impossible marriage. A Chareidi campaign marked him and fought to punish him by blocking his candidacy. In spite of practical pressures from women's groups and prior agreements (a "deal" where Rabbi Lavie would be picked at the price of rejecting rabbis related to Tzohar), close to the time of voting a hurried message was received from the courtyard of the most prominent Lita'i in Bnei Berak. The "deal" collapsed, and the priestess of personal rights adjourned the committee. Support of the Chareidim for her political future was worth more than any principles...
The Movie "Get" Wants to Curse but Blesses in the End
While we are talking about the national hobby of slinging mud towards the rabbinical courts, I recently saw the movie "Get," directed by Shlomi and Ronit Alkabetz (have no fear, the audience consisted almost exclusively of men wearing knitted kippot and their companions). This was depicted in the media as a film sharply criticizing the rabbinical courts with its behind-the-scenes look at the intransient and cruel deliberations, as is common with such marketing slogans. Well, here is my impression as a movie critic: The artists produced a story based on a super-marginal and almost impossible case, totally extreme. The couple like each other, they do not fling dirty accusations at each other, there is no infidelity, and neither one has found any faults with the other. It just so happens that the wife is tired of her husband but he is incorrigibly stubborn in spite of the efforts of the judges to convince him ("as it happens," no civil action can be taken to force him to act, since he has no bank account, no driver's license, and no passport). As far as I am concerned (and I am usually quite critical), the judges in the movie showed restraint and understanding, and they tried to help. The most irritating element, which upset the whole audience, was a "slide" that appeared every few minutes: "four months later... half a year later... two months later..." But as noted above, this "slide" is a direct consequence of the policies of that paragon of individual and legal rights, Ms. Tz.L. herself.

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