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Jewish law: Law & religion in Israel

Subjects: Law

Government & courts

Religious Courts

"The Israeli legal system is unique among modern legal systems in the utilization of various personal status laws in the area of family law, applied by religious courts. This phenomenon has historical and political roots: it existed under Ottoman rule and was retained by the British after they conquered the country.

The basic source for the application of the personal status law and the jurisdiction of the various religious courts is found in the Palestine Order in Council (1922). This order provides that "jurisdiction in matters of personal status shall be exercised... by the courts of the religious communities".

The order also grants jurisdiction to the District Courts in matters of personal status for foreigners who are non-Muslims, stating that they "shall apply the personal law of the parties concerned". Regarding foreigners, this was defined as "the law of his nationality". Case law determined that regarding non-foreigners, "the court ... have... to apply the religious or communal law of the parties".

The Palestine Order in Council recognized eleven religious communities: Jewish, Muslim, and nine Christian denominations. The Israeli government added the Presbyterian Evangelical Church and the Ba'hai to this list. The Knesset also enacted a law vesting jurisdiction in the Druze religious courts."

Section on "Religious Courts" on The Judiciary: The Court System on Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
<> Accessed 10 May 2017

Law & Religion in Israel

Related Bodleian Guide