Israel's Chief Rabbi Pushes for First West Bank Rabbinical Court

Chief Rabbi David Lau is promoting creation of a permanent rabbinical court in the city of Ariel, in response to a demand that's grown as settler population has risen

Israel’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi David Lau in Jerusalem, July 2018
Emil Salman

Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau is promoting the establishment of a permanent rabbinical court in the West Bank city of Ariel. Two sources familiar with the details confirmed the plan when queried by Haaretz, although the Rabbinical Courts Administration spokesman still denies it.

A senior rabbinical courts official explained that the original intention was to have implemented plan already, but it was put off because of bureaucratic complications. However, thanks to Rabbi Lau's assistance, efforts to move the initiative forward have recently resumed.

The Israeli settlement of Ariel, in The West Bank
Oksana Art

The Israeli settlement of Ariel currently has a beit din (rabbinical court) that convenes only once a week, when rabbinical court judges come from Tel Aviv to deal primarily with divorce cases. This is the only state-run beit din that operates in the territories. As the religious settler population has increased there in recent years, demand has grown for a permanent, full-time beit din.  

Aside from the court in Ariel, there are currently 11 regional ones: in Jerusalem, Be’er Sheva, Ashdod, Rehovot, Haifa, Tiberias, Petah Tikva, Tel Aviv, Netanya, Safed and Ashkelon; there is also a Supreme Rabbinical Court, which deals with appeals.

The rabbinical courts’ most prominent function is to deliberate issues relating to marriage and divorce of Israel's Jewish citizens, who by law are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the beit din in those realms. 

While there are also no district or magistrate’s courts in the West Bank,  courts dealing with local affairs operate there, in Ma’aleh Adumim, Ariel and Kiryat Arba. The jurisdiction of these courts is generally limited to administrative matters relating to local government.