Courts for Christians and Jews

I recently came across a fascinating book entitled The Handbook of Palestine by H.C. Luke and E. Keith-Roach.  Produced in 1922 by the British Mandate government which had just taken control of the country after a long Ottoman Turkish rule, it’s a fascinating snapshot of the Holy Land beginning its transition to the State of Israel and the other claimants of the land.  I plan to reproduce some of the more interesting parts of the book on a sporadic basis.

In this post we will look at courts for Christians and Jews, as we did for Muslims earlier.

One thing appended in the original is the registration of marriages.  Each religious group registered its own marriages under British rule.  This is also interesting in view of the current spat over same sex civil marriage.

The non-Moslem Communities exercise jurisdiction in matters of marriage, divorce and alimony, and inheritance over the members of their community, and the judgments given by their religious courts in these matters are executed through the Execution Office of the Civil Courts.

The Courts of Christian Communities have:

  1. exclusive jurisdiction in matters of marriage and divorce, alimony, execution and confirmation of wills of Palestinian members of the Community;
  2. exclusive jurisdiction in any other matters of personal status of such persons, where all the parties to the action consent to their jurisdiction;
  3. exclusive jurisdiction over any case concerning the constitution or internal administration of a waqf constituted before the Religious Court according to the religious law of the community.

A Rabbinical Council composed of two Chief Rabbis — one for the Sephardic and one for the Ashkenazic communities — and six Rabbinical members together with two lay Councillors, was elected in February, 1921. This Council, which constitutes a Court of Appeal from the Rabbinical Courts of the Jewish Communities in the towns and villages, is recognized by the Government as the sole Rabbinical authority.

The Rabbinical Courts have:

  1. exclusive jurisdiction in matters of marriage and divorce, alimony, execution and confirmation of wills of Jewish Palestinian subjects;
  2. jurisdiction in any other matter of personal status of Jewish persons, where all the parties to the action consent to their jurisdiction;
  3. exclusive jurisdiction over any case as to the constitution or internal administration of a waqf constituted before the Rabbinical Court according to Jewish Law.

Under the Turkish regime the registration of marriages and divorces was carried out by the Census Office (Nufus). Under the British Administration the registration is carried out by the religious authority which celebrates the marriage, a copy of the certificate being sent to the Governor, who keeps a register of all marriages and divorces in his Province. For the Moslems mazuns (registrars) have been appointed in each District by the Qadis, who are alone qualified to celebrate and register marriages. For the Christians the Patriarchates and for the Jews the Rabbinical Council, are responsible.

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