Former Deputy President of the Israeli High Court Passes Away at the Age of 86

In recent news, a retired judge, Eliyahu Matza, passed away in the State of Israel at the age of 86. He had previously served as the Deputy President of the High Court of Justice. Matza had been born in the year 1935 in Tel Aviv back when the days of the British Mandate Palestine were ongoing. He had been appointed the Deputy President of the High Court between the years of 2004 and 2005, when Aharon Barak held the position of the Chief Justice. 

For 32 years, Matza had been serving as a judge, 14 of which he spent in the High Court. Before he obtained his law degree in the year 1974 from Tel Aviv University (TAU), he had been serving in the IDF as their military judge. Afterwards, he went on to become the President of the Central District Military Court. Matza had a reputation for being a stern judge. Once, he sentenced two soldiers of the IDF to no less than seven years behind bars. This was because they hid in a military outpost and did not offer help to their fellow soldiers, at the time when the Yom Kippur War was ongoing in the year 1973. This example was quoted by Moshe Perl, author and lecturer at TAU.

After being discharged from the IDF, the late judge proceeded to hold a position at the Court of Bat Yam Magistrate, as well as a district court. In the year 1989, he was also appointed as a justice of the High Court, but only temporarily. This appointment had been unprecedented, as he had only been a district court judge for a time period of five years, before he was temporarily assigned as a High Court judge. In the year 1991, the judiciary selection committee decided unanimously to ensure that Matza stayed on as High Court justice. They voted him in and in the year 2004, he went on to become the Deputy President. The following year, he retired as he had reached the retirement age set at 70 years.  

Matza was frequently quoted voicing his objections against the Nation-State Law, also known as the Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People. It had been passed in the year 2018, by the right-wing government of the former Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. The late judge believed it to be ‘shameful law’ and was not afraid to announce that to the world. 

In the words of the now deceased 86-year-old, the Nation-State Law was responsible for sterilizing the democratic element present in the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. He claimed that it was only preparing for the annexation of the West Bank. Matza had also publicly expressed that he was in full support of the two-state solution, warning that a one-state solution could put an end to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. In the year 2013, he was also given the Knights of Quality Government award by the Movement of Quality Government in Israel (MQG). 

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