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Rabbinical Court: 4.7% rise in national divorce rate
By SAM SOKOL
01/29/2013
Report shows 10,694 couples divorced last year; Rights Group: Rabbinate misleading, hiding data on "chained women."
 
There was a 4.7 percent increase in the national divorce rate in 2012, according to a report released on Monday by the Rabbinical Courts Administration, with 10,694 couples divorced last year, an increase of 484 over 2011.

Most divorces were in Tel Aviv, which saw 711 over the past year, followed by Jerusalem with 705 and Rishon Lezion with 488. Afula had the least divorces, with 80.

There was a total of 88,055 cases in the Rabbinical Court System in 2012, compared with 80,636 the previous year.

The report, which contained statistics detailing the number and type of cases adjudicated by the Rabbinical Court System in 2012, also indicated that there has been a “leap in providing bills of divorce to women known in Hebrew as agunot, or ‘chained-women.’” Agunot are those whose husbands have disappeared without leaving them a get, a traditional Jewish bill of divorce, whether willingly or unwillingly.

A woman whose husbands refuses to grant her a divorce, while generically also an aguna, is known in Hebrew as a mesorevet get. According to both Jewish and Israeli law, both categories of “chained women” are forbidden from remarrying without a get. A child born of a union with a married woman is considered illegitimate by Jewish law and the Israeli Rabbinical Courts Adminsitration. These children are severely restricted in who they can marry.”

“The report brings good news,” the Rabbinical Courts Administration noted.

“There has been a sharp increase in the number of agunot who have received their long-awaited bills of divorce.”

According to the report, 2012 saw a 168 percent increase in the number of chained women who received divorces. One hundred and sixty-three agunot were granted divorces last year, the Chief Rabbinate noted, up from 97 in 2011.

The past years saw “increased sanctions” against husbands refusing to grant their wives divorces, with some 60 judgements.

These included the issuance of 20 arrest warrants, up from 13 in 2013; the imposition of travel restrictions; financial penalties and other sanctions. There were 41 such judgements in 2011, the report noted.

“There [also] were 156 restraining orders for women against violent husbands, compared to 81 last year.”

According to the Rabbinical Courts Administration, “there was an increase of thousands of applications to open files in the rabbinical courts compared to the previous year, indicating the public’s satisfaction with the functioning of the courts.”

“In the past year we were able to almost double the amount of agunot who received a divorce relative to last year (163 compared to 97 last year). Concurrently, we are constantly issuing sanctions against husbands who refuse to grant their wives a divorce.”

However, not everyone is pleased with the rabbinate’s progress.

Batya Kahane-Dror, an attorney and the director of the aguna advocacy organization Mavoi Satum, noted that she sees the annual report as a public relations effort to “to cover up the crimes of the the [courts] system.

It does not solve the problem of the those whose husbands refuse to grant bills of divorce.”

“The court’s report is misleading,” Kahane-Dror told The Jerusalem Post.

“It recently published on it’s official website that it [had freed] 20 agunot. On the other hand, it announced today that it obtained divorces for 167.”

“There is no comparison between sanctions preventing husbands from leaving Israel and those which entail jail time, which is the only relevant sanction,” Kahane-Dror asserted.

“This is misleading. Indeed, according to data published, last year there were only 20 arrests, which, even if a slight increase, is unfortunately only a drop in the bucket.”

Kahane-Dror indicated she believes the courts’ methods allow for men to use the promise of a get to extort their wives and the result is that “thousands of women are in captivity... and cannot continue their lives, establish new families and have children.”

Reform Rabbi Uri Regev, director of the NGO Hiddush for Religious Freedom and Equality, also blasted the rabbinate report, saying he believes that “the progress reported, while commendable, is marginal at best. The monopolistic and coercive infrastructure of rabbinic courts has gone bankrupt.”

“The report turns its back on the thousands of women who have to endure torture, a lengthy ‘Jewish Via Dolorosa,’ lasting years, in their attempt to free themselves from unsuccessful marriages,” Regev told the Post.

Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, former director-general of the rabbinic court system, and an incoming MK with the Bayit Yehudi party, issued a statement saying that while he is “glad to see the court data, indicating an improvement in assistance to agunot, there is a long way to go to significantly reduce the problem of abandoned wives.”

The freshman MK said that he intends to “promote comprehensive legislation on the subject. I hope that we can eradicate this intolerable phenomenon.”
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