Thursday, December 28, 2006
Posted by Mary L. Dudziak
Assaf Likhovski, Tel Aviv University, has a new paper on SSRN: The Time Has Not Yet Come to Repair the World in the Kingdom of God: Israeli Lawyers and the Failed Jewish Legal Revolution of 1948. Here's the abstract: At certain moments in Israel's legal history, Jewish lawyers were forced to choose between their commitment to the professional interests of their guild and their commitment to Jewish nationalism. This dilemma was especially apparent in the debates surrounding what can be called the failed Jewish legal revolution of 1948, when Israeli lawyers had to decide whether they wanted to maintain the legal status quo by retaining the legal system that Israel inherited from the British rulers of Palestine, or whether this legal system would be replaced by one that was connected in some way to Jewish law (the Halakha). What choice did Jewish lawyers make, and how was this choice received by lay Israelis? The paper tells the story of the attempts to create a legal system based on Jewish law in mandatory Palestine and in Israel immediately after independence in 1948. It analyzes the reasons for the failure of these attempts. First, it discusses some practical factors that inhibited legal change in 1948. It then discusses the role of Jewish lawyers in maintaining the status quo. Finally, it argues that professional legal opposition to Jewish law alone cannot explain the failure of the Jewish law project. Professional opposition to Jewish law succeeded only because it resonated with wider culture images prevalent among lay Israelis in 1948 and afterwards. By manipulating these cultural images, lawyers successfully thwarted the linkage of Israeli law to Jewish law.