The most divisive Supreme Court President in Israel’s history, Justice Esther Hayut, is retiring on Monday after six years on the high bench. Because of the war, there will be no official ceremony, which means that the final strife Hayut initiated––making sure Justice Minister Yariv Levin would not be allowed to bid her an official farewell––went unfulfilled. She canceled her retirement ceremony at the President’s residence to prevent Levin from speaking. Now fate took away her substitute goodbye party.
Levin upset Hayut and the powers that be in the judicial system when he refused to approve Justice Yitzhak Amit’s appointment to replace Hayut based on the seniority system, which is not a legal requirement but has been the court’s tradition for years. The justice minister is not happy with the seniority system, and he is even less happy with the choice of Amit as Hayut’s successor, seeing as he is even more of a leftist activist than she has been.
“Today I am ending a long and fascinating journey as a judge – a journey that began almost 34 years ago, in March 1990 at the Court of Local Affairs in Tel Aviv, and ends here, at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, where I served for more than 20 years,” Hayut wrote in her farewell letter to the judges.
Her fascinating story included pushing the country to the brink of a civil war, daring as she has done for the first time in the court’s history to challenge Basic Laws which the court had declared to be Israel’s constitution. She refused to recuse herself from sitting in judgment regarding numerous aspects of the judicial reform after she stood in front of an audience last January and attacked every last aspect of the reform. It is safe to say that no court president, not even legendary former justice Aharon Barak ever imagined themselves to be as god-like as Esther Hayut.
In early August, a small group of rowdy and noisy right-wing protesters showed up early Wednesday morning at the home of Supreme Court President Esther Hayut to present her with a unique gift: several boxes of lovely bananas, as befits the ruler of a banana republic. They hailed “Queen Esty” with their megaphones and blew the zambooras, as befits an early morning protest in the craziest country in a region that includes Lebanon and Iran.
Did we mention that Hayut did her military service at the Central Command Band, alongside Dorit Reuveni, Eli Gorenstein, Uzi Chitman, and Ronit Ofir – none of whom sought a career in law (phew…). Below is one of the band’s songs, “The Man from the Valley.” Dorit Reuveni is the soloist, but Hayut is in there somewhere.
Anyway, to access all of The Jewish Press articles on Queen Esty, click here. It’s been a trip. I, for one, am delighted to see her go, and will not miss her.