The High Court rejected a provocative petition demanding the Justice Minister, the Chief Rabbinate Council and the Dayanim Appointing Committee appoint dayanim who are attorneys at law.
The petition was filed by Atty. Diana Har-Even, who claimed that it is irrelevant whether a candidate seeking to serve as a dayan has an ability to formulate halachic rulings. Rather it should be determined whether he has a legal education and holds a law degree from a recognized academic institution and completed an internship or preparatory courses in the area of family law. The background for the petition: Reform women's groups' campaign to lay the groundwork for the appointment of a dayan with a Reform worldview.
Judges Asher Grunis, Miriam Naor and Uzi Fogelman rejected the petition, explaining that the Dayanim Law states, "One who has been authorized by the Chief Rabbinate Council . . . is qualified to be appointed as a dayan" and the conditions for authorization and the arrangements are to be determined by regulations set by the justice minister, with the consent of the Chief Rabbinate Council, and that one of the regulations is that the candidate be authorized for rabbinical ordination by an expert or a Torah-based institution whose authority the Rabbinate "recognizes as sufficient."
The judges determined that the demand to require a legal education as a prerequisite cannot be accepted because the appointment of dayanim is based on the Dayanim Law, regulations and guidelines and the guidelines set for the appointment of dayanim were not intended to be prerequisites, but to lay forth the primary qualities required of a candidate and that these conditions are flexible and the evaluation is conducted by the committee on the basis of the material presented to it.
Following the rejection of the petition, figures associated with the botei din system said women's groups, backed by the Reform Movement and national-religious organizations, sought to use the petition to promote the appointment of dayanim with a secular legal worldview in order to secularize the Rabbinate botei din and bring about rulings consistent with the petitioners' secular approach rather than the halochoh. "The entire petition was designed to lay the groundwork for the appointment of a dayan who is a law school lecturer at a university and is known for his worldview of changing the halochoh to fit Reform women's groups and the appointment of other dayanim with a similar worldview. The judges were well-advised to reject the organizations' niggling, provocative petition," said botei din figures, who praised Atty. Rabbi Shimon Yaakobi, the legal advisor for the Rabbinate botei din, who has worked extensively through legal channels to preserve the character of the botei din.