Rabbinical court tells Israeli woman 'no divorce' if she files rape complaint

Jewish law requires that a husband willingly agree to give a divorce and a wife willingly accept it for a divorce to be valid.

November 9, 2017 13:44
2 minute read.
File photo: Divorce.

File photo: Divorce.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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The Jerusalem Rabbinical Court arranged a divorce that included a condition saying the wife would not file a complaint with the police regarding “events of the past,” a reference to her claims that her husband raped and beat her.

The Mavoi Satum divorcerights organization now representing the woman has filed a complaint with the Attorney- General’s Office asking it to open an investigation of the presiding rabbinical judges for extortion and interference with investigative procedures.

The couple in question divorced in February 2016.

During the divorce process, the wife alleged that her husband was violent toward her and their children and that he had raped her.

Her husband denied her allegations and the rabbinical court said there was not enough evidence to support her claims.

However, the husband insisted as part of the divorce agreement that the wife agree to not file a complaint with the police about the claims, referred to in the court document as “events of the past.”

The document also required the woman to agree to transfer the divorce settlement file from the family court where it was being conducted to the rabbinical court.

The woman has said she consented to sign the agreement after being pressured to do so by the presiding rabbinical judges, Rabbis Yosef Goldberg, David Bardugo and Mordechai Ralbag, out of a fear that if she did not agree she would be denied a divorce by her husband.

Jewish law requires that for a divorce to be valid, the husband must agree to give the divorce and the wife must accept it.

There are currently thousands of cases of divorce refusal, in many of which the women have been denied a divorce for years.

Mavoi Satum took up the woman’s case and after seeing the agreement, the organization’s director, attorney Batya Kehana-Dror, said it was illegal and filed a complaint with the Attorney- General’s Office to investigate the rabbinical judges for their conduct.

“The rabbinical court not only denied the right of the woman to complain to the police and encouraged her to conceal information which she is obligated to provide, but also established it within an official court ruling.

It seemingly encouraged and approved interfering with investigative procedures and extortion,” said Kehana-Dror.

“This ruling has severe consequences, including encouraging violence in the family, when criminal husbands know that the rabbinical court can silence a woman and demand that they not file complaints as a condition of divorce.”

The Rabbinical Courts Administration said in response that well-qualified lawyers, including the woman’s, had drawn up the agreement and that the content of the agreement had been agreed to by both the husband and wife.

“Evidence supporting the claims of rape and violence was not provided to the rabbinical judge [Goldberg], but he believed that there was a severe chance that the woman could be chained [refused a divorce].

Therefore, after ensuring that the woman willingly agreed to the content of the agreement and that she understood the meaning of the agreement and its contents, he thought it better to approve the agreement without interfering in the issue of a police complaint, than to put the woman in danger of being refused a divorce.”

The rabbinical court’s response also took aim at Kehana-Dror, saying the case had only been “raised from the depths” because of her “struggle against the rabbinical courts.”

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