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Israel: First Female Judge Selected for Muslim Religious Court

(Apr. 27, 2017) On April 25, 2017, the Qadis (Muslim law judges) Appointment Committee in Israel selected Hana Mansour-Khatib, a female jurist, for the position of a Sharia (Islamic law) court judge.  Mansour-Khatib is a lawyer specializing in Sharia family law and a licensed mediator.  (Hur Uriel Nizari, History in the Committee for the Appointment of Qadis: A Woman Appointed to a Senior Position, TAKDIN (last visited Apr. 26, 2017) (in Hebrew).)

A bill that would have mandated the appointment of women to Sharia courts, put forward by MP Issawi Frej, had been submitted to the Knesset (parliament) before the appointment of Mansour-Khatib was announced.  (Judy Maltz, Israel Appoints First Female Judge to Muslim Religious Court, HAARETZ (Apr. 25, 2017).)  The bill was reportedly defeated in the Ministerial Legislative Committee because of opposition from two Jewish ultra-Orthodox members: Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and Religious Affairs Minister David Azoulay.  According to Frej, the opposition to the passage of the bill was based on their fear that the appointment of women to Sharia courts “would set a precedent in the Jewish religious courts.”  (Id.)  Frej noted that after the bill was defeated he “obtained a promise from Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked that she would help him circumvent the Knesset.  Shaked, who heads the Judicial Committee, fulfilled that promise … .” (Id.)

The Oadis Appointment Committee 

The Qadis Appointment Committee is established under the Qadis Law, 5721-1961 (SEFER HAHUKIM [BOOK OF LAWS, the official gazette, SH] No. 339 p. 118, as amended).  The Committee is composed of nine members, including the President of the Sharia Court of Appeals and an additional Qadi selected by the sitting Qadis; Israel’s Minister of Justice and a Muslim member or deputy member of government selected by the Minister of Justice; three Knesset (parliament) members, at least two of whom are Muslim; and two lawyers, at least one of whom is Muslim, selected by the Israeli Bar Association.  The Minister of Justice serves as chairperson of the committee.  (Id. § 4.)

Sharia Courts

Matters of personal status of Muslims in Israel are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Sharia courts; Israel recognizes the continued jurisdiction of the Sharia courts and the Sharia Court of Appeals under the King’s Order in Council, 1922-1947.  (Sharia Courts (Appointments) Law, 5714-1953, SH No. 139 p. 43; King’s Order in Council, 1922-1947, § 52, 3 HUKEI ERETZ ISRAEL [LAWS OF THE LAND OF ISRAEL] p. 2738.)  There are eight regional Sharia courts in Israel.  In addition, there is a Sharia Court of Appeals and a Sharia courts administration, located in Jerusalem.  Regional courts adjudicate with one Qadi and the Sharia Court of Appeals with three Quadis. (Nizari, supra.)