Rabbi preforming wedding in Jerusalem 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Knesset State Control Committee chairman Ronnie Bar-On (Kadima) called on
Wednesday for broader implementation by rabbinical courts of a law that allows
dayanim, or rabbinical judges, to impose punitive sanctions on men who refuse to
give their wife a bill of divorce.
In a committee hearing, Bar-On told
the rabbinical courts director Rabbi Shlomo Daichovsky that dayanim should start
utilizing the full scope of the sanctions law and hold hearings on punishments
for any man who has not complied with their directive that he give his wife a
get (halachic divorce).
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“The problem is that the courts are simply not
implementing their power to impose these punitive measures,” Batya Kehana,
director of the divorce rights group Mavoi Satum, told The Jerusalem Post
long as no fundamental change is made, and as long as the rabbinical courts
system remains under the management of the Ministry of Justice, even another 10
[committee] hearings like this won’t help solve the problem.”
law, a woman must obtain a get from her husband before she is able to marry
again. According to divorce-rights groups, there are hundreds of open cases in
Israel in which women are unable to remarry, sometimes for several
In 1995, a law was passed to allow the imposition of sanctions
against recalcitrant husbands, but according to a new study conducted by the
Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women at Bar-Ilan
University, and which was presented during Wednesday’s committee hearing,
sanctions are used in only 1.5 percent of the cases in which they are
applicable. Such measures include preventing a recalcitrant husband from
traveling abroad, confiscating his driver’s license, and even
In response, Daichovsky promised to carry forward the
proposals and also called on women whose cases have been delayed for a long time
to approach him directly to examine the cause of the delay.
however, was sharply critical of the conduct of the rabbinical courts and their
attitude to the plight of women who are denied a get by their
“The rabbinical courts are not providing a sufficient service
to their clients, those who seek their rulings,” Bar-On said
“Those who turn to the courts have nowhere else to go, but there
are hundreds of [divorce] cases open which are just not being dealt with. The
courts aren’t providing even the most minimal of services.”
censured the attitude of the courts in which “issues are raised but never
During Wednesday’s hearing, a woman whose husband has refused
to give her a get for the past two years, highlighted some of the shortcomings
of religious divorce proceedings. She said that one panel of judges had heard
the evidence she brought showing that her husband had beat her, and after two
years a different panel ruled that the couple should try to reconcile. The
woman, who requested that her name not be published, is appealing this ruling in
the Supreme Rabbinical Court with the assistance of Mavoi Satum.
rabbinical courts must make greater use of the halachic authority that the law
provides them, including taking steps to impose punitive sanctions on the
initiative of the rabbinical courts themselves,” said Prof. Ruth Halperin
Kedari, co-author of the Rackman report, during the hearing.
courts are extremely wary about using the sanctions tool because of a concern
within Jewish law that if a bill of divorce is issued under duress, it is
invalid. If a man issued a get in such circumstances, his wife would, in the
eyes of Jewish law, still be married to him, and any future child she has with
another man would be considered a mamzer
, someone born of an illicit sexual
relationship or his descendants.
According to the Rackman report, 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%
of the cases took more than four years before a get
was given, and 28.4% took at
least two years.