Misplaced Mercy

For years, observers have noted that Israel’s High Court is disconnected from both justice and reality. A look at recent headlines indicate that the situation is getting worse by the day.

Last Thursday, the Court ruled that private Orthodox conversions will be recognized for the right of return, a decision swiftly denounced by Chief Sephardic Rabbi Harav Yitzhak Yosef as an unwarranted interference in the conversion process.

Rav Yosef termed it “a scandal, it is unthinkable that the private conversion industry which is unsupervised by any state body will be recognized as official…

“The Court will not determine who is a Jew, only the Torah will do that. That is how it has always been, and b’ezras Hashem, that is how it will continue to be,” declared Rav Yosef.

This decision is only the latest in a long string of scandalous rulings that seek to destroy the long-standing status-quo that has existed since the founding of the State. It is hardly coincidental that the Reform movement hailed the ruling, saying that this opens the door for eventual recognition of their conversions as well.

While the justices may delude themselves into thinking that their decision was motivated by feelings of mercy towards those individuals who undergo conversions that are not recognized by the authorized religious authorities, in reality they are doing these individuals and all the residents of Israel a great disservice. When an individual born of a non-Jewish mother is misled into thinking they are Jewish after undergoing a sham conversion, it is a tragedy for that individual as well as for the general population.

On Monday, in an unrelated ruling that elicited widespread condemnation, three Supreme Court justices ruled that a young man who has never been tried, much less convicted, could not be released from prison for a few hours to attend his first-born son’s bris. The father has been in administrative detention for more than seven months because the security services suspect that he was behind some of the violence of the “hilltop youth.”

In all this time, following endless hours of interrogations of the suspect and those he was allegedly manipulating, and following all the investigations that preceded his arrest, the government has not been able to come up with enough evidence to press charges.

In their ruling, the justices ignored a moving request from Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, who wrote that a bris “is one the most special ceremonies in a father’s life, and there is no doubt that not participating in his son’s brit milah is liable to cause him sorrow for the rest of his life.”

Rav Lau’s appeal and those of others — including one from the widow of former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Harav Mordechai Eliyahu — inexplicably fell on deaf ears.

Does anyone really think that holding him in solitary confinement for more than seven months doesn’t send enough of a message that the security forces take alleged Jewish violence seriously — and so they need to deny him the right to attend his son’s bris?

Just a few days ago, one Supreme Court Justice, Menachem Mazuz, canceled the scheduled demolition of a terrorist family’s home because it would be unfair to them.

The terrorist in question, Abed Al-Aziz Mer’ie, murdered Aharon Banita-Bennet, Hy”d, and Rabbi Nechemia Lavi, Hy”d, in the Old City of Yerushalayim in October 2015 at the start of the current intifada, leaving behind eight orphans. Banita-Bennet and his wife and child were returning at the end of Shabbos from a visit to the Kosel when they were attacked. Rabbi Lavi, upon hearing their screams, left his shalosh seudos table to try and help them.

According to Mazuz — who regularly nixes home demolitions — the IDF’s plan to demolish the second floor of the family’s house was out of place because the terrorist only lived there on weekends and on holiday breaks when he was not attending Abu Dis University.

But even if he had lived there full-time, the house should not be demolished, Mazuz argued, because his parents had nothing to do with the attack.

To be sure, demolishing a home — and leaving a family without a roof over their heads — is a very harsh measure, which should not be taken lightly. But when the security forces determine that, in the current climate of incitement and not-so-subtle encouragement from family members to engage in terrorism, home demolitions are a deterrent, that means that such measures are the lesser of the evils.

By detaching itself from core Jewish values, by acting with mercy toward the cruel and with cruelty toward the merciful, the Supreme Court is once again showing its true colors.