Jewish Law in Israel: Law, Religion and State
Prof. Yuval Sinai (Visiting Professor of Law, Yale University)
4pm Thu 14 May, in A113 Samuel Alexander Building.
This talk will explore the way Judaism, as a religion and culture, and its legal tradition – the halakhah – is incorporated into the secular legal system of the state of Israel and, more broadly, the role of Judaism and Jewish values in Israel. The origins of Jewish law are thousands of years in the past, but whereas most other ancient legal systems are no longer relevant today, Jewish law continues to have great vitality and ability to adapt to the given time and place, and as such it is highly relevant even in the solution of contemporary legal problems. This is manifest in the application of Jewish law in the legal system of the modern State of Israel. Israel’s constitutional system is based on two tenets: (1) that the state is Jewish and (2) that the state is democratic. It is this commitment to the creation of a synthesis between particularistic (Jewish) and universalistic (democratic) values that has proved to be the major constitutional challenge faced by Israel since its foundation. Reaching such a synthesis is especially problematic given that approximately 20% of Israel’s citizenry consists of non-Jews, primarily Muslims, Christians, and Druzes. Even within the Jewish population itself, the exact meaning of Israel as a Jewish state has been highly contested. Not only do opinions differ as to whether Jews are citizens of a nation, members of a people, participants in a culture, or co-religionists, but even within the latter there are widely divergent beliefs and degrees of practice. This paper will consider the challenges facing the application of Jewish law in the modern state of Israel while attempting to illuminate deserving legal models that incorporate the Jewish tradition and multicultural society of Israel today.
Professor Yuval Sinai is a Schusterman Visiting Professor of Law at Yale, and Senior Research Scholar of Law at Yale University Law School; Associate Professor of Law, and Director of the Center for the Application of Jewish Law, Netanya College Law School, and teaches Jewish law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Bar Ilan Law Schools (Israel); formerly Visiting Professor at McGill University, Canada (2007-2008). His research interests are Jewish law, comparative law, Law and Religion. He has published two books, namely, The Judge and the Judicial Process In Jewish Law (Hebrew University of Jerusalem Press, 2009) (Heb): Applications of Jewish Law in the Israeli Courts (The Israel Bar-Publishing House, Tel Aviv, 2009) (Heb.), and over 25 articles in these areas.