File photo: Divorce..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court has requested Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit open a criminal investigation of a wealthy US businessman it suspects of supporting his son’s recalcitrance over a divorce in an attempt to pervert justice.
The case involves an American haredi (ultra-Orthodox) couple with two children who came on a family trip to Israel 14 years ago. During their vacation, the wife suffered a stroke that left her permanently disabled. The husband subsequently abandoned her and their children in Israel, returned to the US and has refused to grant her a divorce ever since.
The Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court ruled three years ago that the man was obligated to grant her a get, a religious bill of divorce, but he ignored the ruling.
According to the Rabbinical Courts Administration, its investigative department began to investigate the man’s motivation for refusing to divorce his wife for such a long time and found that the man’s father – a well-known and wealthy US haredi businessman – was using various means to support his son in his refusal.
When the father visited Israel in 2015, the rabbinical court issued an order banning him from leaving the country, confiscated his passport. It eventually issued an unprecedented ruling in which the father was sentenced to 30 days in prison for tactics used in supporting his son’s divorce refusal.
He has avoided jail time so far through an appeal to the High Court of Justice, but the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court now says that a public-relations campaign conducted by him has included disrupting court proceedings and an attempt to pervert the course of justice.
The Rabbinical Courts Administration said this week that the man hired a public relations company “to blacken the image of the courts, to create hostile public opinion [against the court] within the haredi and religious community so as to put pressure on the rabbinical court.”
The administration added that the family had sought to exert pressure on the court “through politicians and on the rabbinical judges’ family members in an unprecedented way which is prohibited by law.”
It also noted that the family arranged a meeting between the husband and the respected Rabbi Yitzhak Grossman, ostensibly for the rabbi to convince him to grant a divorce. When that failed, they called Grossman as a witness to testify it was the husband himself – and not the father – who was behind the refusal to grant the divorce.
In response, the father filed a High Court petition demanding the attorney-general desist from the criminal investigation, but the petition was thrown out by the court and the father slapped with a NIS 20,000 bill for the costs of the suit.
Justice Yitzhak Amit wrote in the decision that it appeared the father had indeed sought to intimidate the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court instead of trying to convince his son to grant a divorce to his wife, and told him to “change the record.”
A spokeswoman for the father said in response, “This is not the first time the rabbinical court has sought to intimidate the father through possible criminal investigations,” saying the attempt to bring about such a probe “contradicts all legal rights in a democratic state, including freedom of expression, adding that any investigation should be closed “in a flash.”