First female judge appointed to Israel's Sharia courts

First female judge appointed to Israel's Sharia courts

April 28, 2017

On April 25th, the Judicial Appointments Committee, which oversees the appointment of judges to all Israeli courts, unanimously confirmed the appointment of Hana Mansour-Khatib.  Mansour-Khatib, a family lawyer from the Arab village of Tamra in the north of Israel, is the first woman to serve as a qadi (judge) in Israel’s sharia courts.  In a similar fashion to the rabbinic courts, sharia courts have jurisdiction over personal status issues for the Muslim community in Israel including marriage, divorce, conversion, inheritance, and prevention of domestic violence.

Mansour-Khatib studied law at Staffordshire University in England and mediation at Bar-Ilan University for her masters and has a successful private practice in Tamra representing clients predominantly in sharia courts.  Though qualified for judgeships in Israel’s civil courts, she chose instead to pursue a position in the sharia courts explaining “I thought I could have much more impact on my community, and especially on Muslim women, by serving on a sharia court.”

Reactions to the historic appointment have been varied.  Politicians have lauded it including Arab MKs Issawi Frej (Meretz),  who exerted pressure on Justice Minister and head of the committee, Ayelet Shaked, to make this a priority, and Aida Touma-Suleiman (Arab Joint List), who called the appointment  “a statement that Arab women are capable of filling all function and that it’s time to lift the barriers they face.” 

Whereas the Southern Branch of the Islamic Movement has vocalized its support, Sheikh Kamal Khatib, deputy head of the outlawed Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, came out against Mansour-Khatib’s appointment and criticized the Judicial Committee’s lack of knowledge of Islam and Islamic law.  In response, MK Frej, a member of Shaked’s committee, pointed out that the commission included Sharia Court of Appeals President Kadi Abd Al-Hakim Samara as well as other sharia and legal experts who ensured that all steps were completed “in the most professional manner.”

Further reading:
Israel’s first woman Shari’a court judge a humble role model - The Jerusalem Post - Eliyahu Kamisher - 5.10.17

In Home of Israel’s First Female Sharia Judge, Husband Does the Cooking - Haaretz - Judy Maltz - 5.3.17

Israel appoints first female judge to Muslim court - Newsweek - Sofia Lotto Persio - 4.26.17

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