A female rabbinical court advocate has been appointed to sit on the committee
for appointing rabbinical judges, in accordance with legislation passed during
the last Knesset session.
MKs Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) and Shuli Moalem-
Refaeli (Bayit Yehudi) authored a law which guarantees four spots out of 11 on
the committee for women, including an MK, a minister and a representative from
the Israel Bar Association, as well as a rabbinical court
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua), who chairs the
committee, appointed Dr. Rachel Levmore to serve as the rabbinical court
The panel is seen by women’s rights groups as critical for
alleviating some of the problems faced by women seeking to obtain a divorce from
their husbands, and the passage of the law represents a significant victory for
It is estimated that there are several thousand women
in Israel whose husbands refuse to give them the bill of divorce, or “get”. The
average time it takes for a woman to receive a get after proceedings are
initiated in a rabbinical court is 642 days.
Between 1995 and 2007, 12.5
percent of the cases took more than four years and 28.4 percent took at least
Levmore now joins Moalem-Refaeli and Livni on the committee,
although a fourth woman will not be brought on to the current panel because the
legislation was passed after the appointment of the new members.
remaining members of the committee include Sephardi Chief Rabbi David Lau and
Askenazi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef; supreme rabbinical judges Tzion Boaron and
Tzion Elgrabli; Communications Minister Gilad Erdan; Shas MK Eli Yishai and two
Israel Bar Association representatives, attorneys Mordechai Eisenberg and Asher
There are currently five empty seats on the Rabbinical Court, as
well as 14 empty seats on the 12 regional rabbinical courts around the country,
which the new committee will fill.
Despite the unprecedented number of
women now on the panel, divorce-rights groups are nevertheless cautious. They are
concerned about the chances of appointing liberal- minded rabbinical judges
inclined to prevent husbands from holding out for favorable divorce settlement
terms in return for granting the divorce.
In Jewish law, a husband must
willingly grant a bill of divorce to his wife before she can remarry and have
In the past, appointments have been made by committee
consensus, although they may be carried out with a majority of eight of the 11
Of the current panel, only the three women are seen as being
reliably liberal – although several other members may also be inclined to
appoint rabbinical judges with a more moderate approach.
Boaron was a candidate in the recent elections for chief rabbi and was publicly
backed by two prominent divorce-rights groups, Yad Le’isha and Mavoi Satum, who
described his attitude to women whose husbands refuse to grant a divorce as
“moderate and humanistic.”
Erdan may also be inclined to appoint more
liberal-minded judges, although women’s right’s groups have expressed concern
with the Likud party’s allegiance to the haredi political establishment and the
influence of that relationship on the rabbinical judges appointments
Appointments have been stalled for close to two years following
an injunction issued by the High Court of Justice at the beginning of 2012,
preventing the committee from convening due to the absence of any women on the
Even before the injunction, granted at the request of the Emunah
women’s rights group, the process was badly backed up following a lack of
consensus on the panel.
Levmore has a PhD in Talmud and Jewish Law from
Bar-Ilan University and is a rabbinical court advocate and coordinator of the
Agunah and Get- Refusal Prevention Project of the International Young Israel
Movement in Israel and the Jewish Agency.
Levmore was also one of the
authors of a prenuptial agreement designed to prevent get refusal in accordance
with Jewish law, and has written a book on the issue.
“Thanks to the law
proposed by MKs Dr. Aliza Lavie and Shuli Moalem- Refaeli the composition of the
committee for appointing rabbinical judges is now much more balanced than it was
in the past, not just on a gender basis, but also in the representation of
fields from which the members are from, both from the societal and rabbinical
court sides,” said Levmore following the appointment.
Lavie said that
having a female rabbinical court advocate appointed to the committee had been
one of her highest priorities since entering the Knesset.
“Rachel is the
right person in the right place and I’m sure that her presence on the committee,
together with the other women guaranteed by the law, will lead to the
appointment of attentive and moderate rabbinical judges who are in touch with
Israeli society,” said Lavie.
Robyn Shames, executive director of the
International Coalition for Agunah Rights, said that she had “high hopes that
the new committee will appoint suitable rabbinical judges that will help solve
the problems of agunot and women who cannot get their bill of divorce.”