Monday, May 22, 2006

Challenges of Life in Israel

Israel is self-defined as a Jewish Democratic State. The constant tension between these 2 seemingly opposite concepts provides us with daily challenges of building a country for the Jewish people. As Jews, our history is based on Judaism as a religion, nationality, and ethnicity. Our Democracy stems from Western Culture along with the historic laws from the Turkish Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate era in pre-1948 Israel.

This past week's B'Sheva newspaper brings the following story. (Couldn't find it on-line, but I'm translating some of it from the hard copy newspaper)

Israeli Supreme Court annuls High Rabbinical Court Ruling

The Israeli Supreme Court (ISC-Bagatz) rained down another blow against the Rabbinical Courts this past week. The Bagatz, chaired by justices Barak, Arbel and Naor annulled the ruling of the Regional Rabbinical Court and the Rabbinical High Court and ruled that the evidence provided infringed on the privacy of one of the sides.

The case dealt with a couple that in the middle of an argument [ed J@TM: not clear from the article how serious the issue was]. While their matter was being dealt with by a Rabbinical Court, the husband obtained photographs of his wife in an intimate position with another man. After seeing the photographs, the Rabbinical Court ruled that based on halacha, the man was required to divorce his wife, even though the pictures infringed on the woman's legal and basic right to privacy.

The woman challenged the Rabbinical Court's ruling in the Bagatz, and Chief Justice Aharon Barak ruled than the basic law of the right to privacy over-ruled that of determining the truth and of the halacha that a husband cannot live with his wife if she committed adultery.

The bottom line is that since the photographs compromised the woman's right to privacy, the Bagatz ruled that they could not be used as evidence to force a "one-sided" divorce.
Unfortunately, the newspaper article's point is to bash the Bagatz (I'm not a big fan of Chief Justice Aharon Barak's judicial activism, but I wish all the facts from the case were presented in the article) and many points aren't clear.

If a woman is proven to be an adulteress, does she automatically lose the right to monetary compensation from the Ketuba?

Should the laws of Dina-Dimalchuta-Dina, (the ruling country) over-rule halacha for monetary matters? (Too bad the article didn't mention what the point of the wife was -- did she want to remain married to her husband, or was she just trying to ensure that she received the money from the Ketuba?)

Is there really a conflict here between the democratic laws of privacy vs. halacha?

Unfortunately, I couldn't find this published anywhere, so the question will remain open for the time being. In the meantime, it's an example of the challenges we face here on a daily basis.

But to end on an optimistic note, there's a settlement that built a municipal swimming pool and the question arose whether it should be open on shabbat or not. The religious residents wanted the pool closed on shabbat, while the secular wanted it open. A compromise was reached, and the pool is open on shabbat -- but the snack bar is closed as well as the cash register. If you want to go swimming, you need to purchase tickets before shabbat. Therefore, the snack bar retains its kosher certification, there is no outright chilul shabbat, and yet, the pool remains open.

This is an excellent example of how to rise to the challenge of making Israel a Jewish Democratic country and a pleasure to live in!

Eretz Yisrael. Living the Dream!


Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Mike: Oh, I forgot to mention, on shabbat towels aren't allowed either.

(just kidding ;)

Rafi G. said...

what happened to your blog turning to eretz yisrael?

DTC said...

Hilchos Kesuva are very complex and many cases are not so clear cut. Sometimes the mere fact that a woman goes to the Beis Din to request a Get is enough to make her immediately lose her Kesuva.
(and as we all know, these posts should not be relied upon Lema`aseh.)

While I'm not a big fan at all of Get Heter Me'ah Rabbanim (other than the fact that the Pischei Teshuva says that only Rabbis with college degrees are allowed to sign it :-) ), this case here seems to be tailor made for it.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mike, is swimming is forbidden, don't forget to outlaw mikvaot too.

Shtender said...

I'm suprised a photo would be accepted by a B"D as a proof of anything. As we all know, photos can be faked. They can look real, and sometimes even an expert can be fooled.

rockofgalilee said...

shtender - it sounds like nobody was arguing the authenticity of the photo, they were arguing the fact that the evidence was obtained illegally.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Rafi G: Its an alternative signature, but the blog description up above stays the same.

Shtender: What rock said.

YMedad said...

Here's the Besheva site:

YMedad said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
YMedad said...

Sorry, that.

Maybe it should be "wherever my blog is, I turn to Eretz Yisrael".

Anonymous said...

Swimming pool open on Shabbat... Can't believe it. I mean, what if someone builds a raft? How will the religious elements in the community LIVE with themselves?!

ifyouwillit... said...

...leads to the d'oraisa in wringing out a wet towel... thus swimming itself is fine. I think this is a beautiful example of religious-secular cooperation. If more of it occorued, we'd be in a much better situation. Unfortuantly, many are blinkered and won't see the other side of the coin.

As for Bagatz -vs- High Court, which has the authority to outrule which? Are parties allowed to choose they wish to take their case to a secular/religious court rather than the other? Using both seems to me like playing the system to get the outcome you're after.

Anonymous said...

Funny, our community pool just reached the same compromise this season - we live in the USA, but in a heavily observant neighborhood - Jewish and Catholic, actually. Our local town pool (which we all support with our taxes, whether you are Jewish or not) has separate gender swimming at convinient times, and is open on Shabbes but not the snack bar. Funny! It is a nice arrangement, and everyone benefits. Observant Jews, non-observant Jews, and Catholics had to get together to work this one out, and so far so good!

dtc: why would a woman lose her right to her ketuba content if she requests a get? I have not heard that before.

ifyouwillit: interesting question.

Lady-Light said...

As far as the issur against swimming goes, one normally just towels off one's hair after swimming, not squeezes it. And one could always just lay a wet towel down or hang it up while wet. Assuming one DID those things, would swimming per say still be assur on Shabbat, and if so, why? As Mike Miller said in his comment above, the issur is d'Rabbanan, not d'Oraita.
But that notwithstanding, I agree with Jameel that this is a great compromise between the datiim and the chiloniim. I heard some time ago from a resident of Raanana, that there was a similar controversy between dati & lo-dati about clubs being closed on Friday night. I hope I remember this correctly, but the lo-dati families were complaining that their kids had to drive out of town to go to clubs because there was no transportation running and no facilities open and it was a 'sakanah'. Both sides compromised by deciding to open certain nightclubs or discoteques (how DO you spell that word?!) on Friday night so the kids who were not shomer Shabbat could go to local clubs and stay in town. I personally think that's fair. The same person told me that the datiim and lo-dati groups get along together. That is just a pleasure to hear!

Lady-Light said...

Jameel, can you tell us which settlement it is? It IS public knowledge in Israel, I'm sure...

DTC said...

Ezer K'negdo - it gets into a VERY complicated issue called Moredet and the rishonim take some very interesting positions that on the surface don't appear to be in line with a simple reading of either the Mishna or the Gemara.

Regardless, it's not a simple topic. (of course, the argument only begins if you define any woman who petitions for a get as a moredet which is a long topic in of itself - that's why I prefaced my original remarks with "Sometimes".)

Anonymous said...

dtc: what does the word "moredet" mean? very interesting, btw.

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