My absolute favorite fact about the Israeli Supreme Court building is that it was designed by a brother and sister architecture team. As someone who shares only one hobby with her brother, petty bickering, I doubt we could even design a Lego building together, let alone a national gem. These architects clearly overcame sibling squabbling, because the building isexquisite and it is designed with multiple symbols of justice, truth and law. (Photo to the left shows the circular skylight windows outside the courtrooms. The building has beautiful natural light).
We were incredibly fortunate that Justice Salim Joubrin took time out of his busy schedule to discuss the Supreme Court and the cases it tries with our group. (Picture of the group with Justice Joubran to the right). The court has its issues, lack of representative diversity for one, but overall I was struck by how accessible the court is. The court hears about 10,000 cases per year, compared to the case load of between 80 and 100 that the highest courts of the United States and Great Britain have. Even more remarkable than the quantity of the cases they hear is that 2,000 of those cases are people appealing directly to the Supreme Court for help with what they feel are human rights violations committed by the Israeli Government. Regardless of citizenship, an individual who feels wronged by an Israeli policy or law can appeal for help. I think that's incredible and certainly a right we don't have in the United States.
Justice Joubran invited us to watch the case he was hearing right after his meeting with us. Apparently it wasn't special treatment though, just standard Israeli practice to keep these hearings open to the public. As I understood nothing of the proceedings being held in Hebrew, I had plenty of time to look around. Again, I was wowed by how accessible and casual the court is. The justices were no more than 25 feet away from us, and we sat in the way back of the court room. Also, like all things in Israel, the dress code was informal. Can you imagine going to the Supreme Court in a t-shirt and jeans? Neither could I, but a group in the court room did.
Another interesting point was that Justice Joubran seemed very proud of the fact that Israelis considered the court to be an activist one. Unlike in the States, where calling the Supreme Court “active” is a criticism, Joubran touted this as one of the strengths of the Court.
After a two hour meeting and tour, I wouldn't dare compare and contrast the two courts, other than perhaps to say that the Israeli court seems far more open and to work more directly for the people, and that can't be bad thing.
(Photo to the left is of an ancient mosaic that decorates the entrance to the building).