High Court to review ‘Safed agunah’ case before Supreme Rabbinical Court hearing

The case involves a 34-year-old woman whose husband sustained severe injuries in a motorcycle accident nine years ago, from which he fell into a coma and has never recovered.

By
December 13, 2016 19:45
2 minute read.
Israel

Supreme Court of Israel. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The High Court of Justice ruled on Tuesday that it must hold a hearing on the validity of a third-party appeal against a contentious divorce case from Safed before the Supreme Rabbinical Court can go ahead with its planned hearing.

The case involves a 34-yearold woman whose husband sustained severe injuries in a motorcycle accident nine years ago, from which he fell into a coma and has never recovered.

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In 2014, the Safed Rabbinical Court issued a unique and innovative ruling, granting a bill of divorce on behalf of the husband, on the assumption that he would have agreed, thereby freeing the woman from her marriage.

But in an unprecedented step, the Supreme Rabbinical Court declared last month that it would review the case before a full 11-judge panel, following an appeal by a third party who has no connection to the case.

The Jerusalem Post further understands that Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef has sent new materials to both sides of the appeal, including a Kiryat Shmona Family Court decision from last month, on child subsidy payments to the woman that was not included in the original case.

This has raised concerns that Yosef is not acting like a neutral arbiter in the case.

The Supreme Rabbinical Court’s decision generated heavy opposition from women’s rights groups. The Mavoi Satum organization that represents the woman concerned, appealed to the High Court, claiming the Supreme Rabbinical Court had no right to hear an appeal from a third party with no standing in the decision.



And on Tuesday, High Court Justice Hanan Melcer issued a decision stating that the Supreme Rabbinical Court could not hold its hearing on the matter before the High Court itself can hold a hearing on Mavoi Satum’s petition.

“We are pleased that this U-turn [by the Supreme Rabbinical Court] will be clarified by the High Court, before its scheduled hearing on the issue. Beyond the injury to the rights of the woman herself, the results of the appeal are likely to have far-reaching implications on the status of the [regional] rabbinical courts, judicial authority and the principle of finality in a ruling,” said Mavoi Satum director, attorney Batya Kahana- Dror.

She added that should the Supreme Rabbinical Court go ahead with its hearing on the third-party appeal, “all divorces, and women in particular, will find themselves permanently exposed to appeals against their divorce by a party who is not involved in the case.”


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