Kadi Mohammad Zibdeh, the Kadi of Jaffa, and still the part-time kadi of Jerusalem, gave a fascinating talk in our first series on meetings with non-Jewish religiouso leaders in Israel at the ICCI EDUCATION CENTER on Emek Refaim 43a, Jerusalem, as part of ICCI’s new “Encounters with Local Religious Leaders” series. As a person who grew up in Jaffa, he has been involved with the Muslim community in Jaffa for decades, not only as a teacher in the schools there and later a principal of one of the schools, but also as a civic leader involved in many NPOs (amutot) in the area for the betterment of Jaffa’s Arab citizens.
In 2001, he and 2 other men were appointed as new kadis (Muslim judges in family courts) in Israel. His appointment–and that of his colleagues–began a radical change whereby now all kadis in Israel have at least a university degree and most of them also have law degrees. Kadi Zibdeh is finishing a masters in law this year. This has led to a new generation of kadis in Israel who have earned the respect of their communities as well as of the judicial system in Israel.
Kadi Zibdeh explained carefully and succinctly how shariyah law works in Muslim family courts in Israel, in cooperation with the general laws of Israel. In the question period, he answered many questions very clearly, especially with regard to the rights of women in Muslim courts in Israel, which he explained as being very comprehensive and very considerate of the woman. It was quite clear that he has become an expert not only in Muslim family law but in Israeli family law as well.
The Jewish audience who came to hear Kadi Zibdeh was extremely grateful for his clear and concise answers to all questions, and for his humble yet authoritative personality. It was a rare opportunity indeed for Jews in Jerusalem to meet one of Israel’s outstanding Muslim leaders, a person who has rightfully earned the respect of his community and of the Jewish community as well.
I have had the personal privilege of knowing Kadi Zibdeh since 2003 when he participated for 5 years in our KEDEM (Voices for Religious Reconciliation) project, and became one of the leaders of this program. In addition, he and I traveled together to Canada and the U.S.A two years ago, where he did an excellent job of explaining to foreign audiences the nuances of living as Muslim–in the position of kadi (Judge)– in the state of Israel. He is unquestionably one of the finest representatives of his community in Israel.
Rabbi Dr. Ron Kronish
March 18, 2012