The Jerusalem District Court on Sunday heard an appeal filed by the operators of the website Avoda Ivrit (Hebrew, meaning Jewish-only Labor), which specializes in employment for Jews only. A Magistrate’s Court ruled that the website was illegal.
At the hearing, attorney Uri Tzipori argued that the website was intended to assist Jews in making a living, making it a charity of the first order, according to the ruling of Maimonides. “We identify with Maimonides,” he said, noting that there is a large segment of the public “for whom Maimonides’ statement is meaningful.”
But Judge Tamar Bar-Asher, who may or may not be familiar with the works of the great jurist, philosopher and physician, responded that in the democratic State of Israel, “we don’t rule according to Maimonides but according to the law.”
Which is why it is so fortunate that the 12th century sage authored his Guide to the Perplexed – perhaps Tzipori should gift her a copy when he shows up to hear her final ruling.
About three years ago, the Reform Center for Religion and State, and the NGO Mossawa filed a lawsuit against one of the developers of the Avoda Ivrit website, for connecting Jewish businesses with only Jewish job seekers, and for publishing content on the same website detailing the importance of hiring Jews and the danger in employing non-Jews – both as a security threat and as a danger to the existence of the Jewish people because of daily interaction with non-Jews.”
Jerusalem Magistrates’ Court Judge Einat Abman Muller ruled for the plaintiffs and fined Avoda Ivrit $11,600 plus $2,200 court costs as well as attorneys’ fees.
After Sunday’s hearing, Tzipori said “the Reform sent out a false report from the courtroom, that the Avoda Ivrit website would be deleted, but no such provision was ordered. Instead, the judge requested that the website’s operators agree to act speedily to find a legal solution which will enable the site to continue to promote the wonderful solidarity among the Jews.”
A few days ahead of the appeal hearing, some one hundred Jewish business owners wrote to the Jerusalem District Court, demanding that the appeal be accepted. “We, the undersigned, Jewish professionals in various professions, were astounded by the Magistrate’s Court’s decision prohibiting us to publicize our names as Jewish professionals. We expect you to overturn this decision in favor of continuing our future and our children’s future. We work hard to support our families, and this decision severely impairs our ability to earn a living for our families,” they wrote the judges.
The business owners also reminded the judges that Avoda Ivrit was the value on which the state had been established: “The value of Avoda Ivrit was a guiding light for the builders of the land – Ben-Gurion, A.D. Gordon, Brenner and others. With this decision, you will choose whether to continue the work of the founders of the state or decide to turn your back on them and put an end to the Zionist enterprise, and to the prosperity and flourishing of the Hebrew workers in the State of Israel, which was built with hard labor,” the 100 Jewish businesses wrote.