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Three Israel Supreme Court Justices Accuse Government of Bureaucratic Rigidity

Three Supreme Court justices accused the Israeli Government yesterday of behaving with “bureaucratic rigidity, like in Czarist Russia or in Saudi Arabia.” The angry charge was made at a hearing in the case of Lawrence Goldberg, an American student who appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court after the Ministry of Interior refused to extend his visa so that he could complete his studies here. The case was heard by Justices Joel Sussman. Alfred Witkon and Zvi Berinson. The Government’s position was argued by Deputy State Attorney Michael Hashin. A compromise was reached granting a visa extension on condition that Mr. Goldberg does not use his studies as an argument if he decides to apply for another extension after his two year permit expires.

Mr. Goldberg originally applied for immigrant status under the Law of Return, asserting that he feels Jewish and Israel is his home. The young man’s father is Jewish but his mother and his wife are Christian. According to Jewish religious law, Mr. Goldberg is not a Jew. His petition for immigrant status was denied by the Ministry of Interior which is headed by Moshe Shapiro, leader of the Orthodox National Religious Party. The Ministry also refused to extend his visa. The three Supreme Court justices maintained that the applicant was not obliged to “make the authorities happy.” They said “all he wants to do is study and elsewhere in the world, people pride themselves on being friendly to foreigners.” Justices Sussman. Witkon and Berinson have come under heavy fire from the Orthodox religious establishment in Israel for their contribution to the Supreme Court’s majority decision last week to permit Israelis to hold Jewish nationality without being Jewish by religion.

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