JUSTICE ELYAKIM RUBINSTEIN at his retirement ceremony at the High Court in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
Retired Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, who last month stepped down from his position as Deputy President of the Supreme Court, was on Wednesday presented with a citation naming him as Yakir or Worthy of the Institute of Jewish Law.
The presentation at the President’s Residence was made in the presence of Rubinstein’s close relatives and several of his former colleagues on the bench including Supreme Court President Miriam Naor.
Institute Chairman Yitzhak Natowitz said that as soon it became known that Rubinstein was retiring, “we jumped at the opportunity to give him the Yakir citation.” According to the rules no sitting judge can be named for the honor. “I don’t know if that will prompt any of you to retire sooner,” said Effi Naveh, chairman of the Israel Bar Association, who credited Rubinstein with being an expert not only in Jewish Law but also in legal ethics, relying more on Jewish Law than on Civil Law when pronouncing penalties for lawyers’ misdemeanors.
Rubinstein is so well versed in Jewish law that Natowitz instantly proposed him as a future candidate to head the Institute. “It’s very meaningful when civil courts and lawyers use Jewish Law in relation to their cases,” he said.
President Rivlin recalled that when he was Speaker of the Knesset, Rubinstein had been appointed as the Knesset’s advisor on Jewish Law. “Jewish Law is relevant and affects all of our daily lives,” said Rivlin. “It is part of Israel’s historical and cultural identity.”
Rubinstein’s penchant for Jewish Law is also reflected in the way he writes numbers, said Rivlin who explained that Rubinstein confuses many young lawyers by writing the letter value of numbers rather than writing numbers in figures.
It is not easy to be adamant about the use of Jewish Law and not everyone has the capacity, said Rivlin, who described Rubinstein as “a lighthouse, a compass, a teacher and a guide” proving time and again that there is no conflict between Jewish law and the principles of democracy.
Naor emphasized this point saying that Rubinstein had written many times about the synthesis between Jewish Law and democracy.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit while affirming the esteem in which he holds Rubinstein, confessed that he and Rubinstein are not always in accord. Nonetheless he respects Rubinstein’s commitment to civil rights, which is also part of Jewish Law, he said, and instanced as an example a phone call that he had received from Rubinstein who was unhappy about what he perceived as the abuse of rights of Druse soldiers. Characterizing Rubinstein as “a quality public servant without parallel” who lived by the rule of law, Mandelblit said that Rubinstein, a former attorney general himself, set a definition for that role by saying that it is not the job of the Attorney General to enter into political arguments or to prevent legislation from being passed. The role of the Attorney General is to ensure that all decisions taken by the government conform with the rule of law..
Rubinstein recalled that when he was Attorney General, there was an acute drug addiction problem in Israel, but the Knesset did not yet have a committee to deal with the issue. When Rubinstein suggested the formation of a committee Rivlin who was an MK at the time, but not Speaker, was among the first to volunteer. Before he began to study law, said Rubinstein, he thought it important to know something of Arab culture and he studied classical Arabic literature with the President’s father Prof. Yosef Yoel Rivlin, who had translated the Koran.
Rubinstein found it symbolic that he had received his citation in tandem with the Daf Yomi (daily Talmud page) study of Sanhedrin which in ancient times was the supreme legal and religious body in the Land of Israel. In fact, the Sanhedrin was the court of Jewish Law.