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24 Cheshvan 5760 - November 3, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Beersheba Court Rejects Pork Shop Owners' Appeal

By B. Rabinowitz

A majority of the justices of the Beersheba Regional Court have rejected the appeal of 22 shop owners in Ashkelon who sell pork. The proprietors had appealed against the decision of Yitzchak Yitzchaki, justice of the Ashkelon Magistrates' Court, who forbade the continuation of the sale of pork throughout Ashkelon according to the provisions of the local laws.

The extensive public battle against the sale of pork in Ashkelon was undertaken a number of years ago by a public committee headed by Moshe Sa'id Ben-Chaim and UTJ representatives in the Ashkelon Municipality, Rabbi Yehoshua Buchnick and Rabbi Nissim Calfon. These dedicated communal leaders consulted with Ashkelon's rabbonim every aspect of the struggle, making outstanding efforts to preserve Jewish values in the city. They conducted a broad explanatory campaign in order to bring about the closing of the stores.

An indictment was filed against the 22 shop owners who were accused of violating an auxiliary municipal law forbidding the sale of pork and its products as well as the permitting or causing of its sale for purposes of consumption. The first legal proceeding took place before the Magistrate's Justice of Ashkelon, Yitzchak Yitzchaki.

A year-and-a-half ago, at the end of a protracted period of deliberations, Justice Yitzchaki issued a decision which stated that the proprietors had indeed violated a municipal law. At the first stage, the proprietors appealed to the High Court to cancel the indictment, but the appeal was rejected. The High Court instructed them to present their claims to the Tel Aviv Regional Court.

After representatives of the prosecution and the Ashkelon Municipality presented their proofs, Alex Shmerling -- a member of the Ashkelon Municipality and the guilty Parties's attorney -- announced that his clients had chosen to exercise the right to remain silent and that they did not intend to bring any proofs. In his summary, he spoke at length about the undermining of the Basic Laws of human respect and of freedom of employment, and noted that a third of Ashkelon's residents are Russian immigrants who do eat pork.

The panel of justices, consisting of Chief Justice Ephraim Laron, Deputy Yehoshua Palpel, and Justice Nil Hendel, issued their decision last week. The detailed verdict was written by Justice Palpel, who rejected each of the petitioners' claims and sanctioned Yitzchaki's decision. He even amended the indictment by appending the seventh clause of the Municipal Auxiliary Law, which states that the guilty parties are to be fined.

Justice Palpel reviewed at length all the salient points which had been examined in the Magistrate's Court, such as whether the prosecution had succeeded in proving the charges beyond doubt, and whether the Auxiliary Law forbidding the sale of pork undermines the Basic Laws.

Justice Palpel determined that the prosecution succeeded in proving the charges beyond any reasonable doubt. The proofs were not refuted, he explained, and the petitioners did not bother to testify in their defense nor to cross-examine the prosecution's witnesses who testified that the meat which was seized was indeed pork. Justice Palpel also quoted from various history books, citing instances in which Jews resisted attempts to eat pork and were murdered for upholding their religious beliefs.

Justice Nil Hendel, who was guided by the concept that the State of Israel is a Jewish, democratic state, agreed with Justice Palpel. Justice Hendel then strengthened this idea by noting that the phrase, "In G-d we trust" appears on every American money note and said that although America is a democratic country and not a Jewish democratic one, a declaration of religious faith appears on all of its bills.

The judge then wrote: "Sometimes the very same court does not interfere when a petition is filed against a municipality which passes an auxiliary law forbidding the sale of pork in its city, and at the same time does not interfere when a petition is filed against a different municipality which permits the sale of pork in its city. If this occurs, can't we accuse the court of inconsistency? The consistent point in these decisions stems from the function of the court, which is not to decide on the issue itself, but to enable each city to decide according to its wishes, so long as there is no legal flaw in its decision. . . . "

The petitioners announced that they intended to appeal to the High Court.

Rabbi Moshe Gafni, who participated in the demonstration in Ashkelon held at the beginning of the struggle, said at that time: "The battle against all those who try to sell treif food when a decisive majority of the country's citizens refrain from eating pork and oppose its sale will go forth from Ashkelon."

Rabbi Gafni praised the work of Rabbi Yehoshua Buchnick and Rabbi Nissim Calfon who are dedicatedly and consistently making efforts to preserve Jewish values in Ashkelon, and who are in constant touch with the city's rabbonim.

In response to the decisions of the Regional Court of Beersheba, Rabbi Gafni said: "It has become clear that when a battle is waged with mesiras nefesh and in conjunction with rabbonim, as was the case with the UTJ representative of Ashkelon, Hashem grants siyata deShmaya. It seems as if most of the judges in Beersheba's panel have come to the inevitable conclusion that we have reached the red line which distinguishes between a life in the State of Israel with some Jewish elements and a which is totally devoid of all Jewish values.

Rabbi Gafni praised the decision of the Regional Court of Beersheba, and expressed the hope that in its deliberations on the appeal against the decisions of the two lower courts -- the Ashkelon Magistrates' Court and the Regional Court of Beersheba reported here -- the High Court will understand that the ongoing stripping of the State of Israel of all Jewish values must be halted. He also said that he hopes that the High Court will authorize the decisions of the first two courts.

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