Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Justice Minister Threatens High Court Judge for Holding Court on Sabbath

November 10, 1969
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Minister of Justice Yaacov Shimshon Shapiro told the Cabinet today that he would consider steps against Supreme Court Justice Zvi Berinson “as provided by law” to discipline him for holding court on the sabbath. Judge Berinson issued an 11th hour order Friday evening over-riding a Government ban on Sabbath television broadcasts. Mr. Shapiro called it “an act unprecedented, even under the British Mandate.” But legal observers here doubted that the Minister would institute any proceedings against the justice. They noted that to do so, he would have to obtain the consent of the president of the Supreme Court, Justice Shimon Agranat, and that such proceedings might threaten the whole principle of the independence of Israel’s judiciary.

Meanwhile the Sephardic Chief Rabbi Itzhak Nissim blasted Judge Berinson for activating the court on the Sabbath. He called it “a destructive act against every soul of Jewry and our land’s honor.” Apart from injuring the sensibilities of Orthodox Jews, Judge Berinson’s ruling seriously embarrassed Premier Golda Meir’s efforts to negotiate a coalition Government with the National Religious Party. The latter has made a ban on Sabbath TV the main condition of its participation in a coalition with Mrs. Meir’s Labor Party-Mapam Alignment. Mrs. Meir gave in to Orthodox demands Friday when she over-ruled a 13-9 vote by the Israel Broadcasting Authority to institute Sabbath television despite a Cabinet recommendation to the contrary. Judge Berinson’s order in effect over-ruled Mrs. Meir. The Cabinet was unable to discuss the matter officially today because of the Supreme Court’s order to desist from interfering with the Broadcasting Authority, an independent body under Israeli law. State Attorney General Meir Shamgar advised the Authority today that he would not represent it before the Supreme Court in the upcoming hearing. Judge Berinson’s order gave the Government 30 days to show cause why a Sabbath TV ban should be upheld. Premier Meir is the second respondent of the order and it is believed that Mr. Shamgar intends to represent her. The Authority is composed of 31 representative of Government Institutions.


Mrs. Meir was mobilizing the best legal minds at her Government’s disposal today in an effort to black out the nation’s television sets on the Sabbath. Her initial effort in that direction failed when Justice Berinson issued his order on the complaint of two private citizens. Following the ruling, Israeli TV sets lit up at 9:10 p.m. local time Friday for the nation’s first Sabbath TV program.

Mrs. Meir’s reasons for seeking a ban were frankly political, without the 12 Knesset seats won by the religious bloc in the Oct. 28 election Mrs. Meir will not be able to form a coalition without the cooperation of Gahal which emerged as the nation’s second strongest party and is demeaning Cabinet representation commensurate with its strength.

Mrs. Meir’s political motives were responsible for the first serious rebuff to her authority since the 71-year old veteran of Israel’s political wars succeeded the late Premier Levi Eshkol this year. When the Authority’s secret vote was over-ruled, two Tel Aviv TV set owners, acting on their citizens’ rights, went directly to Judge Berinson who granted the order. The complainants, Adi Kaplan, a clerk, and his brother-in-law, Yehudah Kessler, a lawyer, argued that Mrs. Meir’s reversal of the Authority’s decision was illegal because she had allowed political considerations to enter her judgment. Israeli law forbids a minister to act out of political motives in exercising his office.

Judge Berinson did not specify on what grounds he granted the order. He acted swiftly however, since only a few hours were left to prepare for the telecast.

Recommended from JTA