Orientalist reflections in early Israeli law: (new) perspectives on the issue of polygamy

Omer Aloni

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2 Scopus citations


This paper examines several cases of bigamy in the early history of Israel as a junction of confronting legal, religious and ethno-cultural considerations. It will discuss these challenging test cases in which the Supreme Court deliberated over the question during the formative decade of the 1950s as a meeting point of social dimensions: both among Jews of Eastern origin, and also among–and in a comparative perspective–Arab-Muslims. To the Court, both of these groups presented reflections of the East, and this paper will suggest a new reading of the Court’s decisions. The bigamy dilemma has occupied the former rulers of the land: both the Ottoman Empire, and the British Mandate for Palestine. History dramatically changed during the early 1950s, as the new State of Israel brought together the Arab communities and an enormous public of new Jewish immigrants, mostly strangers to the Western legal-political tradition that the Zionist founding fathers struggled to establish during the first half of the twentieth century. Given this background, the law (and the Court) sometimes served as an institution and as a stage in which these new legal system and different traditions confronted each other. In compare to other meeting points between East and West and the world of law, the phenomenon of bigamy stands–as this paper argues–at a unique place of its own as the Israeli legal system was literally under construction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-214
Number of pages34
JournalComparative Legal History
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2 Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Bigamy
  • Edward Said
  • Israeli law
  • Orientalism
  • melting pot
  • polygamy


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