Write On!

Write On! The Second Part of Our Series


In the previous issue we reviewed the journals in the Faculty in which students are involved * This time, we would like to introduce the non-student journals: the Jerusalem Review of Legal Studies and Shenaton ha-Mishpat ha-Ivri * Each of these journals enjoys a prominent and unique status in its field


Not Just Philosophy: The Jerusalem Review of Legal Studies

The Jerusalem Review of Legal Studies (JRLS) is a relatively young journal in the Faculty that is published in English. The chief editors are Professor Elon Harel and Professor David Enoch, who also serves as head of the Department of Philosophy. Professor Yoav Dotan, the previous dean of the Faculty, initiated the establishment of the JRLS approximately four years ago. Enoch recalls: “Yoav contacted Elon and me, and since then we have worked together on the journal. For the first few years the journal was a faculty project, and now it is published in cooperation with the Oxford University Press. Basically there was a partial takeover,” he jokes.



Thousands of legal journals are published around the world. The unique aspect of the JRLS is that it is devoted entirely to detailed critical discussions, usually of books or relatively large research projects. “Yoav very successfully identified this underrepresented niche,” Enoch notes. Legal journals certainly discuss written materials, but the comments are usually isolated and sporadic. “Our forum meets the need for in-depth discussion of books in the field of legal theory,” he adds.

In the student journals, the articles are submitted for review by the editorial board. The JRLS operates in a different manner. If an interesting book is published, the editors invite the author and other writers to engage in critical discussion of the work. According to Enoch, each issue usually includes two or three such symposiums. “An actual physical symposium is held – usually in Jerusalem, but not always – at which three of four referees comment on the book and the author responds to the criticism.” A discussion follows and written summaries are submitted for judgment by the editors before appearing as written symposiums.

Although Enoch emphasizes that “it’s alright” if the journal is shaped to an extent by the identity of its editors, the JRLS addresses numerous and diverse areas that relate to his own fields of expertise and those of Professor Harel. The JRLS does not focus specifically on the philosophy of law, but rather on theoretical legal writing. “When we have a basic grasp of the field, we use our knowledge. In other areas we ask our colleagues for assistance,” Enoch explains. The judgment process differs from that in journals such as the Hebrew University Law Review. “In the Review, they usually reach a one-word conclusion – yes or no,” Enoch notes. “For us, the general goal of the comments is to improve the article. It’s a more discourse-based process, and the symposium is published in that form.” Another difference is that the editors do not judge most of the articles themselves: their main function is to find suitable referees.

Open and full access to the JRLS is available online. “It almost certainly won’t stay that way for ever,” Enoch predicts. “The Oxford University Press begins with an open access format to raise interest in the journal, but later they try to apply a slightly more economically viable model.”


Theory and Practice: Shenaton ha-Mishpat ha-Ivri

Shenaton ha-Mishpat ha-Ivri was founded almost 40 years ago. Justice Menachem Elon and Justice Chaim Cohen were its founders and first editors. “In their day, the main purpose of the Jewish law project and the Annual was to inculcate Jewish law in Israel. The articles were written accordingly,” explains Dr. Benny Porat, one of the current editors of the Annual. “Today we are in a slightly different place. The goal is not so much inculcation, but rather a type of dialogue between Jewish law and modern law – something a little more theoretical and philosophical.” Porat adds that in most cases this requires comparison to other legal systems in addition to Israeli law. “Today we are more interested in discourse and mutual influence, and less concerned about whether Jewish law was actually implemented in practice,” he notes.

The Annual is a peer journal that applies a fairly strict screening process. “We accept about 30 percent of the articles we receive,” Porat comments. “We don’t compromise on quality, even though it limits the range of articles we can consider.” He explains that the Annual examines Jewish law in a broad context. In addition to articles focusing on Jewish law itself, the journal also explores fields of general law and Jewish studies (Talmud, Jewish history and Jewish philosophy) that touch on Jewish law.

By way of example, Porat shares with us an article that appeared recently in the Annual. “Dr. Itay Lipschitz published an interesting article in the previous issue entitled ‘Legal Discourse among Judges.’” The article examines the way in which court rulings are written: should the judge write the ruling entirely on his/her own, or should all the judges engage in discourse about the ruling? Porat explains: “Jewish law offers an unusual perspective in this regard, encouraging judges to exchange views and to write their rulings through a process of consultation. Jewish law provides much more detailed instructions on this matter than Israeli law.” The article offers Israeli judges an alternative model for writing rulings based on dialogue and group work.

Another example of the Annual’s broad approach is an article due to appear in the next issue. The article was written by Ben Schwartz, a Faculty graduate and an accountancy intern in the Economic Department of KPMG Somekh Chaikin. Entitled “A Proposed Insurance Solution for the Problem of Women Whose Husbands refuses to divorce” the article was initially written as part of a seminar examining solutions for this problem in religious and civil law. Schwartz was educated in religious Jewish schools and explains that the interface between religious law and the state has always been part of his inner world. “I developed this idea gradually as part of my desire to try to offer as creative solutions as possible to this problem,” Schwartz explains. The facilitator of the seminar, Dr. Avishalom Westreich, suggested that Schwartz expand his paper into a full academic article, since he felt that it offers a realistic and practical solution that has not yet been discussed. Schwartz continues: “Since the article touches on a problem that essentially relates to Jewish law, it was a natural step to submit it to Dr. Benny Porat for Shenaton ha-Mishpat ha-Ivri.” The problem of married woman who cannot secure a divorce is one of the most complex and ancient problems in the Jewish world. Since marriage and divorce in Israel are subject to religious law, the problem has become more acute in recent decades. Despite the gravity of the situation, none of the solutions (religious and civil) raised over the years has been accepted in full. “The complexity of this issue, and its potentially explosive impact on relations between religion and state, motivated me to come up with an improved solution that has a chance of being adopted,” Schwartz recalls. “My background in economics as a graduate in accounting and my interest in the field of insurance formed the background for a proposed solution based on modern insurance law,” he adds. The article discusses the advantages and disadvantages of various aspects of insurance arrangements that can be applied in the context of women whose husbands refuse to grant them a divorce. Insurance laws are particularly flexible, thereby providing a creative solution on the basis of the “core” arrangements discussed in the article, subject to budgetary and political limitations.

The editorial board is currently working on the 27th issue of the Annual, which is due to be published over the coming months. The board members are Professor Hanina Ben Menahem, Professor Gideon Libson and Dr. Benny Porat. Shenaton ha-Mishpat ha-Ivri is considered the leading journal in its field, both because of the prominent status of the Institute for Jewish Law and because of the standard of the journal itself. “In recent years, our colleagues in Tel Aviv have given us some serious competition with their journal called Dinei Israel,” Porat admits. “This only encourages us to improve our own product. I think we’re standing up to the competition.” The Annual is ranked in the B category by the Jerusalem Index, which is considered a high rating.