Word of the Day / Praklit

While there are plenty of lawyers in Israel, only a handful can call themselves 'praklitim.'

Almost 10,000 law school graduates take the Israeli bar exam every year. The pass rate stands at about seventy percent, which is enough to make quite a few Jewish mothers happy. Once certified, these new professionals join the tens of thousands of fellow members of the bar who are able to make a living as “orkhei din,” lawyers (literally practitioners of the law).

While most of them make do with this title, a few don the more ancient appellation “praklitim,” masculine plural for “praklit” (prak-LEET). Originally applying to every man and woman in the legal profession, in common parlance “praklit” has become associated with those working for the different branches of Praklitut Ha’medina, the State Prosecution, also known simply as Ha’praklitut (Ha’prakliTOOT), The Prosecution. It is currently headed by Praklit Ha’medina, State Prosecutor, Moshe Lador.

An early adoption of the Greek “paraklitos,” meaning advocate, “praklit” appears in the English translation of the New Testament as "the comforter" (John 14:16), a moniker for the Holy Spirit. And indeed a handful, if not more, of State Prosecution’s employees see themselves as martyrs, struggling against all odds to defend Israel's crumbling rule of law. It's better, however, to be driven by ideology than by money, which was one of the main themes in the 1980s legal drama L.A. Law, known in Israel as"Praklitey L.A."

And although Israelis love to argue, often for the sake of the argument, the expression “praklit ha-satan,” the Devil's advocate, is not commonly used in Modern Hebrew, maybe due to its Christian origins. But even in the Jewish State, lawyers have to deal with some devilish characters – either their colleagues or clients (or both).

Shoshana Kordova will resume enlightening and entertaining Word of the Day readers on October 9.