Why a Moroccan Rabbinic Court Kept Records in French

Following the injunction of Deuteronomy 16, “Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates,” Jews in Israel and the Diaspora have for millennia established courts of law to settle disputes, and such institutions—known as batey din (singular, beit din)—can still be found the world over. Prior to the 19th century, most Christian and Muslim countries gave these courts exclusive jurisdiction over civil matters between Jewish litigants. Yoel Finkelman describes what made the beit din of the northwest Moroccan city of Kenitra unusual:

[T]he archival materials from the beit din of Kenitra in the mid-20th century . . . were not in rabbinic Hebrew, but in French. Jews in Morocco spoke French during the colonial era, but it is not common at all to find rabbinic courts or halakhic documentation conducted in the vernacular. Why, then, would the beit din use French?

The answer stems from significant reforms that the French colonial government in Morocco made in regulating batey din. . . . The colonial government wanted to reform the relationship between the beit din and the colonial authorities. Beginning in 1918, the French protectorate began systematically to reform Jewish communities and their institutions, modernizing them by limiting their authority and linking them to new, modern bureaucracy. They created Jewish rabbinic courts that would operate based on Jewish laws, but would be subject to the oversight of the colonial authorities, who would authorize the batey din to make decisions about internal Jewish affairs, particularly regarding marriage, divorce, and family law.

Once the Jewish court had acted, the French Protectorate required systematic information about decisions, personal statuses, litigants’ obligations, or divorce settlements and their financial consequences. . . . This created new record-keeping responsibilities for the court. It could not simply run its own business, by Jews for Jews, in Jewish languages. Instead, the French and local authorities required systematic paperwork from the Jewish community.

Read more at The Librarians

More about: France, Jewish law, Moroccan Jewry, Morocco

Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security