Israel Religious Action Center
of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism
Israeli Civics

IRAC often goes to court to further pluralism and social justice in Israel. Many of IRAC's cases go before the Supreme Court, which serves as the High Court of Justice.


For example, cases regarding gender segregated public buses and the recognition of Reform rabbis (specifically Rabbi Miri Gold) are brought to the Supreme Court.


See below for more details on the inner-workings of:

The Supreme Court

and the High Court of Justice





The Supreme Court


The Supreme Court has jurisdiction to hear criminal and civil appeals from judgements of the District Courts. Cases that begin in the District Court are appealable, as of right, to the Supreme Court. Other matters may be appealed only with the Supreme Court's permission. The Supreme Court has special jurisdiction to hear appeals in matters of Knesset elections, rulings of the Civil Service Commission, disciplinary rulings of the Israel Bar Association, administrative detentions, and prisoners' petitions appealed from the District Court.


The number of justices on the Court is fixed by Knesset resolution. By convention, the most senior justice is the President (Chief Justice) of the Court and the next senior justice is the Deputy President. The President of the Court is the head of the entire judicial system in Israel.



(updated June 2011)


    * Justice Dorit Beinisch - President

    * Justice Eliezer Rivlin - Deputy President

    * Justice Edmond E. Levy

    * Justice Salim Joubran

    * Justice Edna Arbel

    * Justice Asher Dan Grunis

    * Justice Esther Hayut

    * Justice Elyakim Rubinstein

    * Justice Isaac Amit

    * Justice Uzi Vogelman

    * Justice Miriam Naor

    * Justice Hanan Melcer

    * Justice Neal Hendel

    * Justice Yoram Danziger

    * Justice Dana Cohen-Lekah - Registrar

    * Justice Guy Shani - Registrar


The Supreme Court generally sits in panels of three justices. The President or the Deputy President of the Court is empowered to expand the size of the panel to any uneven number of justices. In addition, each panel has the power to decide to expand its size. The Court can also decide to initiate an "additional hearing" where a panel of five or more justices will re-hear a case decided by a smaller panel of the Supreme Court. A single justice may hear petitions for injunctions, temporary restraining orders, and other interim rulings, as well as for orders nisi; but a single justice may not refuse to grant an order nisi or make it contingent on only some of its assertions. A single justice may hear appeals against interim rulings of district courts or against the verdict of a single district court judge hearing an appeal from a case in a magistrate's court.


The President or Deputy President of the Supreme Court may instruct that the Supreme Court or a district court constituted for that purpose conduct a retrial of a criminal case in which a final verdict has been handed down, if:


   1. A court has ruled that some evidence introduced in the case is based on falsehood or forgery, and there are grounds for supposing that without said evidence the outcome of the trial would have been different, and to the advantage of the defendant.

   2. New facts or evidence has been uncovered which, on its own or in combination with the material originally presented to the court, is likely to change the outcome of the trial to the advantage of the defendant, and which, at the time of the trial, could not have been in the possession or knowledge of the defendant.

   3. Another individual has in the meanwhile been convicted of the same offense, and the circumstances revealed in the trial of that same other individual indicate that the individual originally convicted did not commit the offense. A petition for a new trial may be submitted by the defendant or by the Attorney-General.


(from the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs Website)





High Court of Justice


The Supreme Court also sits as the High Court of Justice. This function is unique to the Israeli system because as the High Court of Justice, the Supreme Court acts as a court of first and last instance. The High Court of Justice exercises judicial review over the other branches of government, and has powers "in matters in which it considers it necessary to grant relief in the interests of justice and which are not within the jurisdiction of any other court or tribunal."


As a High Court of Justice, the Supreme Court hears over a thousand petitions each year. Often these cases are high-profile ones challenging acts of top government officials. Through its jurisdiction as a High Court of Justice, the Supreme Court upholds the rule of law and strengthens human rights.


The Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court of Justice, is empowered to order the release of persons wrongly detained or imprisoned; to instruct State and local authorities and their officers, and other bodies and individuals statutorily discharging public duties, to act or to refrain from acting in said discharge, and, if elected or appointed unlawfully, to refrain from acting; to give orders to courts, tribunals, and bodies and individuals with judicial or quasi-judicial powers - excluding courts to which the Basic Law: Judicature refers, as well as religious courts - to hear a certain matter or to refrain from judging or continuing to hear a certain matter, and to annul proceedings that had taken place or a decision unlawfully made; to order religious courts to hear a certain matter in their competence or to refrain from hearing or continuing to hear a matter outside it, on condition that the Court need not consider a petition in accordance with this section if the petitioner does not raise the issue of competence at the first available opportunity; but if the petitioner has not had a reasonable opportunity to appeal on the grounds of lack of competence before a decision has been rendered by a religious court, the civil court is empowered to nullify proceedings that have taken place or a ruling rendered by a religious court lacking competence in the matter.


(from the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs Website)





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