Rabbi Mordechai Malka, Elad’s sephardi municipal chief rabbi.
(photo credit: ORHAMELECH.ORG)
The High Court of Justice issued a court order demanding that a private rabbinical court in the ultra-Orthodox city of Elad explain why they issued a writ of social exclusion, which is illegal, against a woman who filed a law suit in a civil court instead of a rabbinic one.
Many haredi rabbis, courts and authorities in Jewish law view the use of state courts, in Israel and in the Diaspora, as a violation of a principle of halacha prohibiting a Jew from handing over another Jew to non-Jewish legal and criminal justice systems.
The writ was issued by the Central Rabbinical Court of Justice of Elad for Property against the woman, referred to as H.K. to protect her identity, because she filed a complaint with a civil court against a neighbor who was illegally building a porch above her apartment.
Along with the three judges of the rabbinical court that issued the decree, the petition named Elad’s Sephardi Municipal Chief Rabbi Mordechai Malka as a primary defendant.
This was done since, in addition to his official duties, he serves as the president of the Central Rabbinical Court.
Malka did not himself issue the social exclusion decree in question and says that it was published in contravention of his general instructions not to do so.
In 2013, the attorney-general issued a directive allowing for the criminal prosecution of anyone involved in imposing such decrees.
On Wednesday, the High Court made an injunction against the defendants asking them to explain why the court should not declare that they had acted in contravention of the law in issuing and publicizing the social exclusion order.
In addition, the court, presided over by Supreme Court President Justice Asher D.
Grunis, asked the defendants to explain why it should not grant the request of the petitioners that asks that the social exclusion order be publicly rescinded by the rabbinical court.
It claimed that the order is “illegal, severely harms the basic rights of the plaintiff and the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”
Added Grunis, “If there is agreement between the two sides there is no problem establishing a court for property issues, but without social exclusion orders or the involvement of state institutions.”
High Court Justice Salim Joubran said that the rabbinical court had “no authority at all to determine a process that is being conducted in the civil courts. Is a rabbinical court permitted to punish someone who turned to a legal court?” he questioned.
Because H.K. turned to the civil court to deal with the construction of the porch by her neighbor, an independent rabbinical court operating in Elad, just east of Petah Tikva, issued the social exclusion writ against her.
It informed the community that she should be treated as “someone who has lifted up their hand against the Law of Moses,” and transgressed the laws of “mesira,” delivering a Jew into secular or non-Jewish legal authorities.
Edicts were posted on notice boards around the city announcing the imposition of this social exclusion, and as a result of this decree, H.K. says she can barely leave the house for fear of being spat on and verbally abused.
She claims that at least one of her daughters was denied a place in high school because of the decree. She says that she can no longer go to synagogue because of the stigma and social ostracism it has caused.
According the Hiddush religious freedom lobbying organization that filed the High Court petition on behalf of H.K., she has to all intents and purposes been banished from communal life in the city and will not be able to continue living there. The petition states that she has suffered from severe psychological stress due to this social ostracism.
Uri Regev, the Reform rabbi and attorney that heads Hiddush, said that many people in the haredi community find themselves in a similar position as H.K., but do not take action since they fear even greater retribution from the rabbinical courts.
“It requires great personal courage to deal with this issue in a civil court, and therefore it is vital that the court recognize the importance of the relief requested by this appeal for the defense of others around the country who are exposed to the threat of a social exclusion order, who bow their heads in submission to this criminal extortion, citizens who suffer from the arbitrary, illegal, unilateral, extremist and brutal nature of such decrees,” said Regev.
The defendants have to submit their response to the High Court by December 31.
“According to the best of our knowledge, Rabbi Malka’s name did not appear on the writ, although this does not negate the responsibility that it [the writ] was issued in the name of the rabbinical court which is run by Rabbi Malka,” the Chief Rabbinate has said regarding the case.
“Rabbi Malka wished to clarify that his position in terms of Jewish law is that writs of social exclusion should not be used at all, and he will investigate how and why his directives were violated.”