A swearing-in ceremony for new judges at Beit Hanassi on Tuesday demonstrated that the the legal profession, once dominated by males, is gradually being taken over by women. Of the 36 judges appointed, 25 were female.
Whereas only a decade ago, most new judges were born abroad, only five of the judges appointed Tuesday were born outside Israel. Two American-born judges - Nava Ben-Or and Miriam Lifshitz - were appointed to the Jerusalem District Court, and a third, Pnina Lokitch, to the Haifa Magistrate's Court.
This was the second and last swearing-in ceremony for judges over which Acting President Dalia Itzik presided. At the start of her address, Itzik quoted the principles of Maimonides, which state that a judge should have wisdom, humility, reverence, hatred of money, love of truth, love of humanity, and a good reputation.
"Remember, when you sit to judge, you are also being judged," she warned the judges, adding that a pre-condition for being a judge was inspiring society's confidence.
Commenting on certain judges' recent behavior, Itzik again issued a warning: "Be careful with your words and with your deeds."
The presence of the Judges Election Committee provided an opportunity for Itzik to mention that the list of judicial candidates is published thirty days in advance of the committee's deliberations, and that any citizen who objects to anyone on the list can make those objections known to the committee.
Members of the committee, Itzik said, must take every care to ensure that candidates disqualified for any reason not be publicly humiliated, or persecuted.
Itzik also had some personal advice for Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, who was also present, and Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz, who was not. She suggested that they return to the accepted style of dialogue that had been the norm between the two institutions they represented, rather than taking public potshots at each other.
The ceremony was Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch's second such since taking office, and she described it as a celebration for all those who join the family of judges.
Over the years, she said, the needs of the judicial system had grown, and the burden on the courts had become increasingly heavier as the country's population and number of lawyers multiplied.
Developments in legal discourse do not reduce the time that it takes to process cases, Beinisch said. Even though the number of judges has increased considerably, she added, 550 judges could not cope with the existing caseload.
Beinisch said that she could not refrain from mentioning the difficult conditions under which many judges have to work. Many courts are still too small and overcrowded, she said.
The Supreme Court president outlined some of the measures being taken to deal with the backlog of cases. But no effort would be effective, she pointed out, unless the government increased the budget to allow for more judges, support staff, and courtrooms.
Beinisch recommended that the courts' organizational independence be reconsidered. She added that recommendations to this effect had been made, but nothing had been done to implement them. "Today, we do not have the budget that would enable us to determine internal priorities in our day-to-day work," she said.