Intolerable Interference From the Courts

The Supreme Court in Israel.

Israel’s Supreme Court is the place to turn if you’re a fringe group that has no chance of imposing your will on the majority via democratic means. With just a little bit of money you can file a petition and get a hearing before a group of wise old men and women who feel entitled to decide anything in any realm of life in Israel, overriding the jurisdiction of those who are authorized to make such decisions.

You can use the Supreme Court to force the powerful Israel Defense Forces to change the route of its security barrier so that Palestinians can more easily reach their grazing land. You can use the court to prevent the government from expelling hundreds of thousands of infiltrators from Sudan and Eritrea who bring crime to the poor neighborhoods of southern Tel Aviv, Eilat and elsewhere (but not to the neighborhoods of the Supreme Court justices) and threaten the Jewish character of the country. And you can use the court to overrule the government on a multi-billion dollar natural gas deal that has profound ramifications for Israel’s economy and its geopolitical standing.

And, worst of all, you can use the court to turn Israel from a Jewish state into one that has, chalilah, no connection to Judaism. That, at least, is what the Reform movement and even more fringe groups like the Women of the Wall are hoping for. Unfortunately, their hopes are well-founded.

In one recent decision, the court ruled that the government must show “good cause” why women may not read from the Torah at the Kosel. In another, the court ordered that the state recognize “private” conversions done in Israel, including those of non-Orthodox movements.

The chutzpah knows no bounds. How dare the court order the Chief Rabbinate to explain why it bars women from reading the Torah at the Kosel? The Kosel is a religious site under the jurisdiction of the Rav of the Kosel and the Rabbinate, who have sole authority to determine which practices are acceptable there and which are not. Their decisions aren’t arbitrary, but based on Halachah and minhag hamakom from time immemorial.

As the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi stated, “The Supreme Court and its justices will not determine who is a Jew, but rather Toras Yisrael will. This is how it has always been and, b’ezras Hashem, we will ensure that this is how it continues.”

The irony is that the court not only gave standing to groups that have no following in Israel and no connection to the Kosel, but at the same time denied standing to the Chief Rabbis who had to fight to be present at hearings on the subject of a Reform presence at the Kosel!

If the court were democratic, it would respect the separation of powers. It would allow the Executive branch, including the Chief Rabbinate and the Religious Affairs Ministry, to conduct its affairs without interference, stepping in only in the most egregious cases of malpractice.

If it were democratic, it would be representative of the public at large. Justices in lower courts would be elected, like in the United States, and those in higher courts would be appointed by politicians and vetted by the opposition. Instead, Israel’s courts, even with limited progress in recent years, constitute a club. Or, as former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak put it, “one family … we cannot bring in [as a justice] someone who is not part of the family.”

And if it had any Jewish feeling, if it didn’t just pay lip service to the notion of Israel as a Jewish and democratic country, it would understand that the Kosel is a place of holiness to the Jewish people, and that its traditions must be respected.

If it had the slightest Jewish feeling, it would never entertain the possibility of telling a Rav whom to admit to the Jewish People.

Such positions reflect zero respect for Judaism and zero regard for democracy.

We are in the Three Weeks, in a difficult time for Klal Yisrael. It is unfortunately during this time that the High Court, which has done so much harm to religious life in Israel — whether it relates to draft deferrals for full-time yeshivah students, or the violation of municipal bylaws banning the opening of businesses on Shabbos, or the public sale of tarfus — is set to hear a number of key cases on the Kosel and the standing of the Reform in Israel.

It is our job to make our voices of protest heard in the corridors of power in Yerushalayim and, much more importantly, to make our pleas heard in Shamayim. May we merit to see the Kosel remain a place of sanctity, where all Jews can come and pour out their hearts at the site where the Shechinah is always present.