Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Likhovski on The Invention of "Hebrew Law" in Mandatory Palestine

The Invention of 'Hebrew Law' in Mandatory Palestine has just been posted on SSRN by Assaf Likhovski, Tel Aviv University - School of Law. It appeared in the American Journal of Comparative Law (1998). Here's the abstract:
This paper examines the attempt of some Jewish nationalists to create a Jewish legal system in early 20th century Palestine. Like many nationalist movements, Zionism, the Jewish nationalist movement, sought to revive its cultural past. The best known aspect of Zionist cultural activity was the revival of the Hebrew language, but linguistic revival was not the only item on the cultural agenda. Some Zionists also sought to revive what they called "Hebrew law" and make it the legal system of the Jewish community in Palestine.
In this article, I will argue that the revival of Hebrew law, like the revival of a large part of Hebrew culture was not meant to be a continuation of the Jewish past, but a break with it; not so much the restoration of an old tradition, as the invention of a new one. Hebrew law, like the rest of Zionist culture, was constructed by its early advocates, most of whom were secular Jews, as a reflection of Zionist ideology and identity needs. It was to be a new legal system, not the restored old system of the Jews of the Diaspora. Hebrew law, I will conclude, was a new legal entity defined and assembled by its revivers in a way which would entice its potential subjects - the Jewish community in Palestine - to adopt it.