Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home

Aharon Barak

(1936 - )

Aharon Barak is an Israeli lawyer, professor, and former justice of the Israeli Supreme Court. He presided over the court from 1995 to 2006.

Barak was born on September 16, 1936, in  KaunasLithuania and spent three years in the Kovno Ghetto following the Nazi occupation of his country. At the end of the war, his family wandered through Hungary, Austria, and Italy before finally settling in Rome for two years. In 1947, they received travel papers and immigrated to Palestine, and moved to Jerusalem.

He studied law, international relations, and economics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and obtained his Bachelor of Laws in 1958. Between 1958 and 1960, having been drafted into the Israeli Defense Forces, he served in the office of the Financial Advisor to the Chief of Staff. Upon his discharge, he returned to the Hebrew University, where he completed his doctoral dissertation with distinction in 1963.

In 1968, Barak was appointed Associate Professor of Law at Hebrew University, and by 1974 he had become the Dean of the Faculty of Law. The prior year he was awarded the Kaplan Prize for excellence in science and research, and in 1975, he was awarded the Israel Prize for his contributions to Israeli society in the legal sciences.

From 1975 to 1978, Barak served as Attorney General of Israel, and in 1978, he was appointed to sit as a justice on the Israeli Supreme Court. In 1993, Barak was appointed Deputy President of the Supreme Court, and he assumed the presidency in 1995, a position he held until 2006, when he retired due to age constraints.

In 2023, the government of Benjamin Netanyahu pursued several controversial legal reforms that were directed in part at the activist judicial approach introduced by Barak. Moshe Koppel and Eugene Kontorovich explained one reason for the proposed reforms was the  “unchecked power” they say the Court assumed in the early 1990s when Barak “announced that even in the absence of a constitution, the Court could invalidate legislation and block government actions with which it disagreed…Barak retroactively declared Israel’s Basic Laws to be a functional constitution and began striking down laws on that basis.”

After his retirement from the Supreme Court, Barak joined the staff of the Reichman University in Herzliya. He has also lectured at the Yale Law School and the University of Alabama.

In 2005, Barak was voted the 39th-greatest Israeli of all time in an online poll conducted by the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronoth.

Sources: Israeli Foreign Ministry.

Moshe Koppel and Eugene Kontorovich, “Our Think Tank Sparked Mass Protests in Israel. We Proudly Stand By Our Ideas,” The Free Press, (March 9, 2023).

Photo: The judiciary of Israel, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.