Address Presented by Supreme Court President Justice (Ret.) Dorit Beinisch (in absentia)
Ordination and Academic Convocation
November 14, 2012
It is with sincere thanks that I accept today the degree awarded me by the Hebrew Union College, an institution whose longstanding and broad-based activities combine education, values and Judaism.
I see this occasion as a manifestation of the respect in which the Hebrew Union College holds the Israeli legal system and the contribution this system makes to promoting the Jewish and democratic values of the State of Israel.
I am privileged to join a distinguished group of presidents of the Supreme Court who have received honorary degrees from your institution. These degrees are not awarded for honor’s sake, but as an expression of appreciation and admiration for the Israeli legal system and its representatives. As I stand here, I see myself as the representative of the legal system that has developed in Israel over the years – a system in which I have had the opportunity and privilege to work in various functions over a period of decades.
The State of Israel took its first steps as an independent country during the period of rebirth following the Holocaust. From its earliest days, Israel faced serious security problems alongside the need to absorb immigration. Despite these challenges, it managed to found an innovative and creative society here. This society has secured numerous achievements, has gained strength enormously, engaged in physical construction and in scientific and cultural creativity that have won admiration around the world.
Alongside its many achievements, the society that has emerged here is highly complex and divided. It is marked by social gaps, violations of the principle of human equality, and ideological rifts between various groups. The relationships between these different groups are becoming increasingly extreme.
The Supreme Court represents the common values that unite society as a whole. Developing and reinforcing these values is vital to our existence as a cohesive society – a society that promote tolerance and openness, and that preserves a moral and value-based strength for the coming generations.
Strengthening Israel’s Jewish and democratic values is a vital condition for its ongoing security and existence as the state of the Jewish people, and as a state that ensures equality and dignity for all its citizens. These are the values that guided the nation’s founders when they drafted Israel’s Declaration of Independence, and these are the basic values that have been enshrined by the Israeli legislator in the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty and the Basic Law: Freedom of Vocation. These basic laws have granted constitutional status to Israel’s character as a Jewish and democratic state.
In the challenging conditions of Israeli society, a better and more just society can only emerge on the basis of the recognition of the dignity of every human, created in God’s image, and the protection of equality as part of human dignity. We must encourage a spirit of tolerance and understanding among the various factions and groups that comprise the diverse mosaic that is the sum picture of Israeli society.
The strength of a society’s values and morals is no less important than its physical strength. Only through its value-based and moral superiority can Israel guarantee its survival as a society. The mission of Israel’s citizens, leaders and educators requires that they hold these values before their eyes. Our desire to improve society must be based on two key pillars. Firstly, we must invest in nurturing and encouraging education and culture – education to values and to achievements in the sciences and the humanities, and the nurturing and study of Jewish values alongside universal values. Secondly, we must maintain the values of law and justice, protect human rights in Israel and maintain the rule of law among the public and in the institutions of state.
Regardless of their origin and the sector to which they belong, all people in Israel must know that the court is their fortress and the defender of their rights. The essence of the judicial mission is to ensure the protection of human rights while respecting the vital interests of the state. To this end, we must strive to minimize the violation of rights by means of the restrictions the Knesset has imposed in the Basic Laws. We must seek to strengthen the status of the legal system and to respect the judicial mission as the guarantee for the protection of all individuals and of society as a whole.
May we realize the words of the prophet: “Zion will be redeemed by justice, and its returning ones by righteousness” (Isaiah 1:27)