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Rabbinic court judge rejected proposal to join Supreme Court

JERUSALEM, May 4 (JTA) — In an apparent effort to ease friction between Israel’s Supreme Court and the fervently Orthodox community, court president Aharon Barak recently suggested that a member of the Chief Rabbinical Court of Appeals be named to the Supreme Court. But Rabbi Shlomo Dichovsky turned down the offer after he was advised to do so by a spiritual leader in the fervently Orthodox community. Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv said it was unacceptable for a member of the rabbinical court to sit on a civil court. Religious and secular groups have kept a watchful eye on the composition of the Supreme Court, which is sometimes called on to decide matters of public policy that touch on religious issues. Some recent rulings have made relations between the court and the fervently Orthodox community tense.
In one such decision, the court ruled that Bar Ilan Street, a main Jerusalem thoroughfare that runs through a fervently religious neighborhood, remain open to traffic on the Sabbath until a suitable alternative route is found for secular drivers. Israeli media reported Sunday that Barak had approached Dichovsky several weeks ago about filling the slot vacated by retiring Judge Tzvi Tal, an observant Jew who is considered the court’s expert on religious law. If Dichovsky, who lectures on Jewish religious law, had been appointed, he would have become the first rabbinical court member to sit on the High Court. With Dichovsky’s refusal, Hebrew University law professor Yitzhak Engelrad was named to replace Tal. Engelrad, 64, has been named to receive this year’s Israel Prize for law. His appointment must now be endorsed by a committee that oversees the selection of Supreme Court justices.

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