The High Court of Justice accepted for deliberation on Monday a petition
demanding that an independent rabbinical court that issued a writ of social
exclusion against a haredi woman in the city of Elad should publicly rescind the
The writ was issued against the woman, referred to as HK to
protect her identity, because she filed a complaint with a civil court against a
neighbor who was illegally building a porch onto her apartment.
ultra-Orthodox 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
Jewish law prohibiting a Jew from handing over another Jew into non-Jewish legal
and criminal justice systems.
Because HK turned to the civil court to
deal with the matter, an independent rabbinical court operating in the haredi
city of Elad, just east of Petah Tikva, issued a social exclusion order against
HK, informing 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
Decree notices were posted on notice boards around the city
announcing the imposition of this social exclusion.
As a result of this
decree, HK says she can barely leave the house for fear of being spat on and
She claims that at least one daughter was denied a place
in high school because of the decree, and says that she can no longer go to
synagogue because of the stigma and social ostracism the decree has
Earlier this year, the attorney- general issued a directive
providing for criminal prosecution of anyone involved in issuing such
According to Hiddush, the organization that filed the High Court
petition on behalf of HK, 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 also states that she has suffered from severe psychological stress due
to this social ostracism.
Hiddush’s petition, accepted for deliberation
by the High Court on Monday, demands that the “True and Just Rabbinical Court”
publicly retract the decree it issued.
The petition named Elad’s Sephardi
Municipal Chief Rabbi Mordechai Malka as a primary respondent since, in addition
to his official duties, he also serves as the president of the “True and Just
Rabbinical Court.” Three other rabbinic judges of the rabbinical court who
signed the decree were named as additional respondents.
alleges that the “True and Just Rabbinical Court,” an independent rabbinical
court also known as “The Central Rabbinical Court of Justice of Elad for
Property,” operates within the framework of the office of the Elad rabbinate and
that documents used by the rabbinical court bear the seal of the office of the
The petition also claims that the address of the “True
and Just Rabbinical Court” belongs to the Elad municipality.
HK, the issue began when neighbors living directly above her apartment began
building a balcony onto their residence without the proper permits, directly
above her own porch.
HK and her family use their porch to build a succa,
a religious obligation during the Succot holiday that, according to Jewish law,
cannot be constructed underneath any permanent structure.
porch would have therefore prevented HK’s family from using their porch for a
She first approached a rabbi her family consulted with on matters
of Jewish law to ask if it was permissible to approach a civil court with her
complaint. The rabbi gave her permission to do so, and her complaint was upheld
by the Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court, which issued an order to HK’s neighbors
to cease construction.
Her neighbors did not heed the court order and
appealed to the True and Just Rabbinical Court of Elad, which issued an
“injunction” against HK demanding that she withdraw her complaint and turn to
the rabbinical court for ruling on the matter.
courts have no authority to issue binding legal injunctions of any
HK refused to withdraw the complaint, and so the day before the Yom
Kippur of 2012, the rabbinical court issued the social exclusion notice against
her, which was posted around the city.
In March this year, the
Attorney-General’s Office issued a directive allowing for the criminal
prosecution of rabbinic judges who issue social exclusion decrees, or threaten
as such, against someone who insists on litigating civil or monetary complaints
in a state court.
The rabbinic judges involved in the current case
cannot, however, be criminally prosecuted, since the decree was issued before
the Attorney General’s Office published its directive on the matter.
phenomenon of such decrees is in part tied to a desire by independent rabbinical
courts of haredi communities to preserve the autonomy and standing of their
Jewish legal institutions.
Since the haredi rabbinical court system
fiercely guards the independence of its network, the issue is especially
sensitive. As such, the attorney- general’s directive in March stated that state
authorities should act “with care and moderation” in taking legal action in
these kind of cases, and stipulated that the opening of an investigation and
prosecution on such charges would require the approval of the deputy state
Although hard data is not available on the prevalence of social
exclusion decrees, Hiddush believes that there may be several hundred cases a
year of such incidents, since there are dozens of private rabbinical courts up
and down the country, which are zealous in the protection of their
Said Hiddush director and attorney, Reform Rabbi Uri Regev,
“There are many people in the same position as this woman... but refrain from
taking action against it out of fear of further injury.
“It is critical
that the court recognizes the importance of defending such people across the
country who are exposed to threats of such social exclusion orders, and not bow
their heads to what is in effect criminal extortion,” Regev
“These citizens suffer from heartbreak, the illegality,
one-sidedness, extremism and brutality inherent in the use of social exclusion
orders,” he concluded.
The chief rabbinate said in response to the High
Court petition that Rabbi Malka did not himself issue the social exclusion
decree in question and that it was published in contravention of his general
instructions not to issue such decrees.
“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 said in its
“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.”
demand that the writ be publicly retracted, the chief rabbinate stated that such
a procedure was unusual and the possibility for its implementation would be
examined while the High Court deliberates on the case.