Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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18 Sivan 5760 - June 21, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Proposal Approved to Allow Rabbinical Courts to Hear Cases on Monetary Issues

by Eliezer Rauchberger

Knesset Constitution Committee approved a proposal authorizing rabbinical courts to hear cases on monetary issues when both sides consent, despite opposition by the Justice Ministry. The Committee approved Rabbi Shmuel Halpert's proposal for its first reading in the Knesset.

The following seven Knesset members voted for the law: Chativ (Mada), Tal and Saban (Shas), Ravitz (UTJ), Steinitz and Rivlin (Likud), Yossi Katz (One Israel). The following voted against: Committee chairman Rubinstein (Meretz), Goldschmidt, Avital and Dayan (One Israel), Paritzki (Shinui), Rabin- Pelosoff (Mercaz). MK Paritzki called for a revote, to take place next week.

Today, rabbinical courts can hear monetary cases even when both side agree to accept their authority only on the basis of the general Arbitration Law. According to Rabbi Halpert's proposal, rabbinical courts will be able to hear monetary issues on their own authority without being empowered by the Arbitration Law.

The difference is significant. For example, in order to force witnesses to testify in a suit based on the Arbitration Law, the arbitrator (in this case the rabbinical court) must ask the court the order the witness to come. Also, in order to enforce the rulings of an arbitrator it is also necessary to go to the court and ask it to enforce the decision, since the arbitrator lacks any power of his own to enforce his decision. This means that in any case, the exercise of any power of enforcement is only via the courts who thus always have the last word.

If the rabbinical courts are able to hear such cases based on a law that applies directly to them, they will be have their own legal power to compel witnesses to testify, to enforce their rulings and so on.

The Justice Ministry opposes this proposal.

If approved, the proposal will be in effect for a two-year trial period. If, during that period, it becomes clear that the law imposes additional pressures upon the rabbinical courts thereby adversely affecting deliberations on marriages and divorces, the law will be canceled.

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