Israeli bureaucracy frustrating for both foreigners and Israelis

Attorney Amos Fried fought the justice system for the bereaved parents of Ariel Newman.

Attorney Amos Fried (photo credit: Courtesy)
Attorney Amos Fried
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Even after more than 25 years of practicing law in Jerusalem, attorney Amos Fried still attributes most of what he knows about being a lawyer to principles he learned from his father. While growing up in Chicago, Fried visited his father’s downtown law firm on a regular basis. But equally important in training his mind to think like a lawyer were the intense chess games he played against his father for hours at a time. To this day, Fried believes that the two best mental exercises for an aspiring lawyer are honing chess skills and learning Talmud.    
After passing the Israeli bar exam in 1993 and the New York State bar exam the following year, Fried began his career as a lawyer in the civil service. In 2000 he shifted to the private sector, establishing his own law firm in Jerusalem’s upscale Rehavia neighborhood. 
“These days,” says Fried, “everyone expects lawyers to have a specialty that serves as the main focus of their practice. I’m more partial to the old style, so I explain to prospective clients that my expertise is in the discipline known as civil litigation – i.e. criminal representation, administrative law, commercial contracts, real estate, etc. It’s actually easier for me to enumerate the types of cases I don’t handle rather than the opposite.”  
Although Fried has appeared in practically every type of court in Israel’s judicial system, he says that arguing cases before the Supreme Court is the most exhilarating, albeit nerve-wracking, experience. During an appeal on a statutory rape conviction before Israel’s highest court, the judges made little effort to hide their disapproval of Fried’s contention that the victim was fabricating the allegations out of thin air. 
“My job is to persevere on behalf of the client as far as I can reasonably push it. As long as the judges let me keep talking, it means they’re still pondering my propositions and might still be persuaded to rule in my favor,” he explains.
Regarding the Supreme Court, over the past year The Jerusalem Post has run a series of articles on what Fried calls “my most heart-rending case.” In September 2014, Ariel Newman of Great Neck, New York, came to Israel for a gap-year study program. Barely a week in the country, the school’s administrators took the boys to the Judean Desert for a two-day hike. Newman was clearly suffering and requested to end his participation and return by car. The trip’s guide refused and demanded that Newman continue until the end. Shortly thereafter, Newman collapsed unconscious and had to be taken to hospital by helicopter. Within in a matter of hours, the boy was pronounced dead. 
Since then, the bereaved parents have been demanding that charges for negligent homicide be brought against the parties responsible for the tragedy. In representing the Newmans, Fried has pursued every possible avenue to compel Israel’s law enforcement authorities to take action. Left with no recourse, Fried decided to petition the Supreme Court in its capacity as the High Court of Justice. Initially the judges expressed extreme reserve about overruling decisions made at the highest level of Israel’s legal system. However, with resolute determination, Fried was able to convince the court to order a reopening of the investigation and force the authorities to question additional suspects and witnesses. Fried remains hopeful that more progress will be made at the next hearing in September. 
“It really is shocking the degree of resistance I’ve encountered at all levels of authority in this case. Thankfully, the Supreme Court justices eventually came to understand how unreasonable it was for the State Attorney to try to defend the police’s haphazard, unprofessional investigation,” Fried says. 
Representing clients effectively demands a lot of patience, creativity and insight. Understanding human nature, knowledge about psychological processes and faith in the basic decency of individuals can come in handy as well. 
“Dealing with Israeli bureaucracy is a classic example of how frustrating it can be for both foreigners and Israelis to interact with the administrative system, often facing arbitrary, even capricious, decisions made by government officials,” he comments.
One such case was a suit Fried brought against the Interior Ministry’s border authorities on behalf of a young man from Sweden who was refused entry into the country as a tourist. Although it was evident that the man had come to Israel for a vacation, the officials at Ben-Gurion Airport determined that his real intent was to remain in the country to find work. 
“The judge in this case was very sympathetic from the outset, but the District Attorney’s office put up a fight as if they were trying to keep out a convicted terrorist. I took special pleasure in pointing out that their contemptuousness was reminiscent of Joseph falsely accusing his brothers of being spies seeking ‘to reveal the nakedness of the land.’ Happily, we won the case, and my client received a handsome compensation for the anguish and injustice inflicted upon him,” Fried reports.    
Ever since Fried became an attorney more than two and a half decades ago, the legal profession in Israel has been flooded with droves of new lawyers, but the competition doesn’t seem to bother him. In his eyes, it’s a Darwinian profession – the fittest survive, and that’s the way it should be. 
“I actually enjoy sharing with young lawyers some of the knowledge and experience I’ve gained over the years. I’m always quick to explain the three essential components for professional success: You have to be good at what you do; you have to be lucky; and you have to know how to take full advantage of the opportunities that come your way. Without those combined features, you’ll never survive as a lawyer in Israel,” Fried asserts.  
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