Former High Court of Justice judge Jacob Turkel passed away on Monday at the age of 88, according to Israeli media.
Turkel was born in Tel Aviv in 1935 to Mordechai and Clara Turkel, who immigrated from Austria. He studied law at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
At age 32 he was appointed as a judge at the Beersheba Magistrate’s Court, then became president of the Beersheba District Court and, finally, in 1995 was called to be a justice at Israel's High Court of Justice, where he served for 10 years. Turkel has spent nearly 40 years of his life on the bench.
In June 2010, he was appointed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to head the Israeli special independent commission of inquiry, referred to as the Turkel Commission, into the Mavi Marmara incident, during which the Turkish ship attempted to break the naval blockade of Gaza and was raided by an Israeli naval commando unit.
After his retirement from the court, he became president of the EMET Prize, unofficially known as Israel’s Nobel Prize. On the occasion of taking up this post, Turkel said: “For my whole life, I saw myself as a Jewish Zionist. I always saw it as an honor and duty to serve the country.”
Israel's prime minister, president mourn justice's death
"My wife Sara and I send our heartfelt condolences to the family of the former Supreme Court judge, the late Jacob Turkel," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. "Justice Turkel contributed greatly to the legal system in Israel and to Israeli society. He was a man of deep integrity, great intelligence and intense love for the country."
"Justice Turkel dedicated his life to doing justice, and did so with a pleasant manner and an independent and groundbreaking approach," Justice Minister Yariv Levin said. "Justice Turkel began his career in court already in his thirties and reached the office of High Court of Justice judge. Even after his retirement from the bench, Justice Turkel continued to make an important contribution to the State of Israel and the public in a series of positions in which he served."
"The life's journey of retired Supreme Court Judge Jacob Turkel, who passed from us this morning, was dedicated to the administration of justice and the protection of the citizen's rights. He will be remembered in the history of Israeli law as an opinionated and hard-working jurist, an advocate of the Hebrew law, who always had the Israeli society's best at heart," Israeli President Isaac Herzog said.
"The series of public positions he held after his retirement from the judiciary reflected his deep love for the country and his concern for its future. Even at the height of his years, he maintained a high level of involvement in what was going on in the Israeli public. A few months ago I had the privilege of meeting him in my office and hearing his clear opinions on the issues of the day. Condolences to his family, may his memory be blessed," Herzog added.
Noa Amouyal contributed to this story.