Mizrahi Jew, settler among Supreme Court appointees

Four new justices are appointed to Israel's top court; settler leader says Sohlberg appointment brings much-needed "balance."

January 9, 2012 03:29
2 minute read.
Noam Sohlberg

Noam Sohlberg. (photo credit: Courts Administration)


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The four new Supreme Court justices appointed on Friday include an Iraqi-born Mizrahi Jew, a West Bank settler and a female member of the Tel Aviv University law faculty.

Jerusalem District Court Judge Noam Sohlberg, a resident of the Gush Etzion settlement of Alon Shvut, was born in 1962 and grew up in Haifa, where he attended a yeshiva. He later joined the air force and finished his service with the rank of major.

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Sohlberg finished his law studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1990.

He spent the next seven years working for three judges and attorneys-general, and also served as a lecturer at the Bar-Ilan University Law School.

Yair Wolf, head of the Gush Etzion local council, said of Sohlberg’s appointment that “in a time of polarization among the people, there is no doubt that Sohlberg speaks to the heterogeneity that is of the utmost importance to the Supreme Court.”

Wolf added that he believes Sohlberg will bring much-needed “balance” to the court’s rulings as a resident of Gush Etzion.

On Friday, Israeli-Arab MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) called Sohlberg’s appointment “a dark day for justice and equality” and added that “even a settler who is a judge is still a settler, living off land stolen from Palestinians.”

Tel Aviv District Court Judge Uri Shoham was born in Iraq in 1948 and immigrated to Israel with his family in 1951. Shoham studied at the Daled High School in Tel Aviv before joining the IDF, where he served for more than three decades in the military prosecutor’s office, eventually retiring from the army in 2001 as a brigadier-general. After leaving the army, he was appointed as a judge at the Tel Aviv District Court.

The appointment of a Mizrahi or Sephardi judge to the Supreme Court has been a hot-button topic in Israel, where the court is widely viewed as a bastion of the Ashkenazi elite.

Judge Daphne Barak-Erez was born in the United States in 1965 and grew up in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Efal. She currently is the Stewart and Judy Colton professor of law and the Dean of the Faculty of Law at Tel Aviv University.

Barak-Erez, a prolific author, is also a member of the American Law Institute and the president of the Israeli Law and Society Association. She has been a visiting researcher at Harvard Law School, a fellow at University College London, as well as a visiting researcher at universities in Switzerland, India and Canada.

From 2000-2001 she was the director of the Minerva Center for Human Rights and has also served as the chairwoman of the Israeli Association of Public Law and as a member of the Council of Higher Education in Israel.

Jerusalem District Court Deputy President Zvi Zylbertal was born in 1952 and in 1981 finished his law studies at the Hebrew University.

Zylbertal was a private attorney from 1983 to 1990 before he was elected as a judge at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court. In 2001 he was appointed to the Jerusalem District Court, where he has remained ever since.

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