(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
In what has been hailed as a groundbreaking ruling, the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court on Sunday sentenced a wealthy haredi businessman to 30 days in prison for supporting his son’s refusal to grant his wife a “get,” a Jewish writ of divorce.
According to the Rabbinical Courts Administration, it is the first time a prison term has been issued by a rabbinical court in Israel to someone other than the get refusers themselves.
The case involves an American haredi couple who have been married for 19 years and have two children. Ten years ago, during a family trip to Israel, the wife suffered a stroke that left her permanently disabled.
The husband subsequently abandoned his wife 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 two years ago that the man was obligated to give her a get, but he ignored the ruling.
The rabbinical court began to investigate the man’s motivation for refusing his wife a get for such a long period of time, and its investigative department discovered that the man’s father – a wellknown and very wealthy haredi businessman – was supporting and backing his son in his refusal to grant a divorce.
When the man’s parents visited Israel recently, the rabbinical court issued an order banning them from leaving the country and summoned them to give testimony to the court.
After hearing the parents’ testimony, the rabbinical court issued its ruling sentencing the father to 30 days in jail.
“It is he who is the central and active figure behind the captive situation of his daughter-in-law, due to his son,” ruled the court. “He can extend her captivity if he wishes, or shorten it and, therefore, appropriate and suitable sanctions must be issued against him.”
The prison sentence was suspended for 10 days to give the man the opportunity to appeal to the Supreme Rabbinical Court.
“This ruling, like other recent decisions, expresses the deep and unambiguous obligation of the rabbinical courts to help captive women and prevent divorce refusal,” said Rabbi Shimon Yaakobi, director of the Rabbinical Courts Administration. “This is an important message to all those who are oppressed: Don’t give up! The rabbinical courts do not finish their work just with the ruling to grant a divorce, and work tirelessly to implement rulings and find real solutions for those who are refused a divorce.”
Attorney Batya Kehana Dror, director of the Mavoi Satum women’s rights organization, described the ruling as an unprecedented step in preventing divorce refusal.
“I expect this ruling to serve as a precedent and an unambiguous message of intolerance of the legal authorities of the phenomenon of divorce refusal,” said Kehana Dror. “I believe that the broad use of tools available to rabbinical judges will end this problem.”