Meir Shamgar: A Lifetime of Legal Service

Meir Shamgar (August 13, 1925 – October 18, 2019) was an Israeli jurist who served in various influential legal roles throughout his distinguished career. From 1961 to 1968, he held the position of Chief Military Advocate General, followed by serving as the Legal Advisor to the Israeli government from 1968 to 1975. In 1975, he was appointed as a justice on the Supreme Court of Israel, and from 1983 to 1995, he presided as the President of the Supreme Court.


Meir Shamgar was born in the city of Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland) as Meir Sternberg, the son of Dina and Eliezer Sternberg, both Zionist supporters of Ze'ev Jabotinsky, who had emigrated from the Russian Empire after the Bolshevik Revolution. In 1939, he immigrated to Israel and studied at Balfour Gymnasium in Tel Aviv. Later, he pursued studies in history and philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and then in law at the Mandatory School of Law and later in London. In 1943, he joined the Palmach and served in Pluga Dalet, the special operations unit of the Haganah. In 1944, he joined the Irgun and took part in its activities. Eventually, he was captured and imprisoned in detention camps in Africa along with other Irgun and Lehi members. During his time in Africa, he continued his legal studies through correspondence courses and was involved in an escape attempt. He returned to Israel with the establishment of the state in 1948.

Shamgar enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and served in Jerusalem during the War of Independence. After the war, he completed his legal studies and, in 1950, returned to the military to serve as a prosecutor. In 1955, he married Geula Neve. In 1956, he was appointed Deputy Military Advocate General, and in 1961, he became the Military Advocate General. Upon his appointment, the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, David Ben-Gurion, instructed him to change his family name from Sternberg to Shamgar. In this role, he played a pivotal role in shaping the legal framework for the military administration of Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip following the Six-Day War.

After concluding his service in the IDF, Shamgar was appointed as the legal advisor to the government, a position he held from 1968 to 1975. During his tenure, there was a policy of reducing and delaying legal proceedings, resulting in a backlog of cases in the courts.

On July 1, 1975, he was appointed as a justice on the Supreme Court of Israel. On April 30, 1982, he was designated as the acting President of the Supreme Court, and on November 28, 1983, he officially became the President of the Supreme Court, succeeding Aharon Barak. On August 13, 1995, upon reaching the age of 70, he retired from his position.

After retiring, Shamgar served as the head of several inquiry committees. In 1996, he was awarded the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement.

Among his many roles, he also acted as a mediator in disputes referred to him directly or through the courts.

Meir Shamgar passed away on October 18, 2019, at the age of 94.

Throughout his life, Meir Shamgar made significant contributions to Israeli law, military justice, and the legal system as a whole, leaving an enduring legacy of commitment to justice and the rule of law in Israel.

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