This blog post is part of our Global Legal Collection Highlights series, launched by the Law Library of Congress in an effort to introduce our readers to foreign legal systems and sources. Several blog posts on various countries have already been published, including on Thailand, Malawi, Indonesia, the European Union, Kuwait, the Russian Federation, and China. This blog post provides general information on the Israeli legal system and on the Israeli legal resources in the English language that are available at the Law Library of Congress.
Israel is a Western-style modern democracy located in the Middle East. Although Western in culture, Israeli law belongs neither to the common law nor to the civil law families of legal systems. Rather it is characterized as belonging to the family of mixed jurisdictions. The hybrid nature of the system reflects the historical changes that have taken place in the territory that is under Israeli jurisdiction.
Having constituted part of the Ottoman Empire for approximately four centuries, the area was later
controlled by the British from 1922 to 1948 in accordance with the British Mandate for Palestine that had been issued by the League of Nations. Remnants of both the Ottoman and the British Mandate legal systems are evident by the continuation of the the Ottoman millet system of allowing the application of different personal status laws to marriage and divorce, and by the recognition of the British system of stare decisis which provides for the binding status of court decisions, resulting in the special role of the judge in the legal system.
The adoption of original Knesset (Israel’s parliament) legislation and the issue of decisions by Israel’s Supreme Court, however, have transformed the Israeli legal system into a modern and sophisticated system that incorporates elements from common law as well as from civil law, which was imported by Israeli jurists educated in continental Europe.
Helpful information on the Israeli legal system is provided in Israel’s Supreme Court President Aharon Barak’s article, Some Reflections on the Israeli Legal System and its Judiciary, published in the Electronic Journal of Comparative Law (April 2002). The Law Library of Congress has numerous titles authored by Barak, including several English translations of his work, as well as commentaries on his books.
A comprehensive study in the English language by Marcia Gelpe, titled The Israeli Legal System (2013), was recently published. It provides an overview of many areas of Israeli law, including constitutional law, administrative law, public international law, criminal law, family law, contracts, and property law.
For information on Israeli legal resources you can see my Israeli Law Guide on the Law and Technology Resources for Legal Professionals website, as well as the Guide to Law Online: Israel, on the Law Library of Congress website. It is important to note that all Israeli official publications are published in the Hebrew language with a limited number published in Arabic. An authorized translation of Israeli laws into English, Laws of the State of Israel (LSI), used to be published by the Ministry of Justice starting in 1948. The last volume of this series, however, covers January 21st to September 25, 1989. Unofficial translations of Israeli laws are similarly outdated.
The Law Library’s Israeli law collections are extensive and include all primary official sources, including Sefer ha-hukim (Book of Laws, Official Gazette, in Hebrew) as well as numerous secondary sources.
The following list includes examples of recently published English language titles currently available at the Law Library of Congress:
- Haggai Carmon, Foreign Judgments in Israel: Recognition and Enforcement (2013);
- Susan M. Weiss and Netty C. Gross-Horowitz, Marriage and Divorce in the Jewish state: Israel’s Civil War (2013);
- Talia Einhorn, Private International Law in Israel (2012);
- Richard Laster & Dan Livney, Environmental Law in Israel (2nd ed., 2012) ;
- Menachem Mautner, Law and the Culture of Israel (2011);
- Assaf Meydani, The Israeli Supreme Court and the Human Rights Revolution: Courts as Agenda Setters (2011);
- Amnon Carmi & Mohammed S. Wattad, Medical Law in Israel (2010).
I am always interested in learning of newly published law treatises that deal with Israeli law. If you have checked the Library of Congress online catalog for a specific title and have not found it, please let me know.