The Judicial Selection Committee on Thursday appointed Havi Toker to serve in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, making her Israel’s first female ultra-orthodox judge.
Toker, 41, was born in England and grew up in Bnei Brak as the eldest of 12 brothers and sisters in a well-known ultra-Orthodox family.
She began her legal career in 2003 and has since spent time clerking in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, before working as an attorney in the police investigators unit followed by the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office.
Been informed of the selection of the first female ultra-Orthodox judge in Israel, Chavi Toker. This is a happy day for her & for the State of Israel as a whole. I am sure she will bring legal skill and knowledge alongside Jewish values and traditions. Congratulations.
— Reuven Rivlin (@PresidentRuvi) February 22, 2018
The mother-of-four’s nomination was widely praised in Haredi media.
According to the ultra-Orthodox Kikar Hashabat website, Toker defines herself as “modern Haredi,” but a friend told the outlet that she is more Haredi than modern, “even though her eldest son serves in the army.”
Thursday’s appointment of Toker came just over a year after the US appointed its first female ultra-Orthodox judge, Rachel Freier, who began serving on the Brooklyn civil court.
At a swearing-in ceremony in December 2016, Freier both vowed to uphold the Constitution and pledged to illuminate the Hasidic world for her new colleagues.
Her election was “a step for the ultra-Orthodox community at large,” showing it is open to women making progress on the political ladder, said Yossi Gestetner, a longtime Hasidic political activist and public relations consultant who co-managed Freier’s campaign.
Another noteworthy appointment was that of justice Eilona Lindenstrauss-Arieli to the Nazareth District Court. Lindenstrauss-Arieli is the daughter of former state comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss.
The committee met on Thursday to appoint judges and registrars in various courts throughout the country, but primarily to fill two vacancies in the Supreme Court. They are expected to reach a decision by the end of the day, Hebrew media said.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who heads the committee, praised the candidates up for appointment in a statement to reporters prior to the meeting.
“Exactly a year ago, we chose four justices for the Supreme Court. Today we add two more. All candidates are excellent. It fell to the committee to lead a process of appointing 230 judges to the courts.”
In February 2017, right-wing lawmakers secured three conservative and non-activist judges out of four new appointments to Israel’s Supreme Court, putting a large dent in what is seen as a liberal-dominated bench.
Three of the four were on Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s list of preferred candidates, while the three judges on the nine-member judicial appointments panel, who voted as a bloc, failed to advance any of their nominees.
Earlier this week, Tel Aviv District Court judge Khaled Kabub announced that he was withdrawing his candidacy to be appointed to the Supreme Court, in a rather surprise move.
Kabub, who would have been the first Muslim on the Supreme Court, had been proposed as a candidate by Attorney Effi Naveh, chairman of the Israel Bar Association, and was also included in the list of candidates of Supreme Court President Esther Hayut.
Nevertheless, he reportedly told relatives that he asked not to be considered for the position because he realized that he has no realistic chance of being appointed.
Ynet reported that the custom in the past few years has been to have only one Arab on the Supreme Court, and George Kara, a Christian Arab, was elected to the court in February 2017.
Sources told Ynet that another reason why Kabub was unlikely to be selected for the position is that Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, of the right-wing Jewish Home party, heads the committee to select the judges.