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Remembering Israel’s First Female Lawyer, 90 Years On

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On February 15, 1930, a large crowd gathered to hear the High Court of Justice in Mandatory Palestine deliver its ruling on the petition of Rosa Ginzberg. For eight years, Ginzberg had battled the authorities of British Mandatory Palestine for the right to sit for the bar examination and to practice law in pre-state Israel. Various reasons were behind their refusal, including political considerations (such as Arab opposition to the possibility of a woman appearing in court and the British desire not to anger the Arabs) as well as sexism. It could be seen as the first legal fight in Mandatory Palestine against the exclusion of women from the public sphere.

A panel of three justices granted Ginzberg’s petition. The ruling, which has never been published, ran to eight pages. Today this would be seen as a brief statement, but in that era it was considered quite lengthy, which indicated the issue’s importance. Each justice supplied his own opinion, another unusual feature for the time. But even more interesting is the legal reasoning, which resembles contemporary rulings by the activist side of Israel’s High Court, in its use of ideological and cultural arguments.

The justices chose realism over formalism, focusing on the issues of the status and the rights of women, which they projected on to a seemingly formal question: Were women included in the........

© Haaretz