Israel's Legal Community Mourns the Passing of a 'Great Judge in Jerusalem'

Retired district court judge Vardi Zeiler, known for his role in investigating several high-profile corruption cases and for modernizing the legal system in Jerusalem, died on Tuesday.

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Retired Jerusalem District Court judge Vardi Zeiler passed away on Tuesday at the age of 79. His funeral is expected to take place later Wednesday.

Judge Zeiler served as the president of Jerusalem District Court for 14 years until he retired in 2003. After his retirement, he served in several official positions. He was the head of the Zeiler Committee, which probed the individual obligations of mayors, and was also in charge of the committee that investigated the 2001 Versailles wedding hall disaster in Jerusalem. He was also chairman of the committee that probed corruption among the police and in the State Prosecutor’s Office in the case of the Parinyan brothers, a local crime family, which led to the resignation of police commissioner Moshe Karadi. He was also the head of the Health Ministry’s disciplinary board.

Zeiler was considered a strict and tough judge who conducted his trials with a firm hand. Attorney Asher Axelrod, the head of the Israel Bar Association’s Jerusalem District Committee, described him as “a man who took the legal system in Jerusalem forward and opened its gates to the 21st century. He was a brilliant jurist and an admired figure in Jerusalem’s legal community.”

Judge Moussia Arad, who replaced Zeiler as president of the Jerusalem District Court and recently retired, told Haaretz that she had spoken with Zeiler on the eve of the Passover holiday. “He was a great judge, a wise man and a strong personality whose sensitivity to human beings was evident in his rulings," she said. "He was a true friend, a legendary president of the Jerusalem District Court. His term was a golden age in the court. He made the Jerusalem District Court the best district court in Israel."

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni also had praise for Zeiler's legacy.

“Judge Zeiler left a mark that few attain. He was a courageous judge with moral and ethical integrity, free of ulterior motives and willing to fight not only for the law but also for justice in its broadest sense. His character will remain as a model for judges to emulate, and he will be remembered as a judge who had the public’s trust. Indeed, there was a judge in Jerusalem.”

Judge Vardi Zeiler photographed in his home in Jerusalem in 2007.Credit: Eyal Toueg
Vardi Zeiler discussing the findings of the Zeiler Committee in 2007.Credit: Kobi Gideon

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