Pallbearers carry the coffins of the victims of the Ethiopian Airline Flight ET 302 plane crash, during the burial ceremony at the Holy Trinity Cathedral Orthodox church in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 17, 2019. .
(photo credit: REUTERS/TIKSA NEGERI)
A special rabbinical court has been set up by Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef to resolve the marital status of the two Israeli women whose husbands died in the Ethiopian Airlines disaster earlier this month.
Israeli citizens Shimon Ram, 59, and Avraham Matzliah, 49, were both presumed to be aboard Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 on March 10 when it crashed into a field shortly after take-off from Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, killing all 157 passengers.
Yosef held a hearing on Tuesday in his Jerusalem office to discuss the various matters of Jewish law pertaining to the case and to hear from relevant officials, including the chair of the Chief Rabbinate’s committee for procedures for respecting the dead, Rabbi Yaakov Rozah; the head of the Interior Ministry’s Population Authority, Prof. Shlomo Mor Yosef; the director of the consular department of the Foreign Ministry, Eyal Siso; and the head of the ZAKA recovery organization, Rabbi Yehudah Meshi Zahav.
If a woman’s husband disappears without proof of his death, it can lead to her becoming an aguna, or chained woman, making it impossible for her to remarry in the future should she so wish.
A rabbinical court can, however, determine an individual to be dead based on circumstantial evidence, thus freeing an aguna.
The three-man rabbinical court comprised of Yosef, Rozah and Rabbi Michael Amos was formally established at the end of the meeting, and took evidence from ZAKA volunteers who visited the crash site.
The panel will also receive flight documentation from Ethiopian Airlines and other evidence that the rabbis hope will prove that the two Israeli men were indeed aboard the plane when it crashed.
Once this has been established, the court will then be able to determine that the two men did indeed die in the crash and release their wives from the marriage.
This determination will also allow the families of the men to perform the seven-day customary mourning procedure, shiva, which they have not been able to do until now.
Two weeks ago, Yosef wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asking him to urgently speak with the relevant Ethiopian officials to provide access to ZAKA officials to the crash site, which had hitherto not been approved.
This was granted but intermittently, so that ZAKA’s volunteers were not yet able to complete their work. Meshi Zahav said his staff are still waiting to return to the site to continue gathering evidence as soon as new permits are issued by the Ethiopian authorities.
Officials in Yosef’s office said they hope the cases will be resolved over the course of the next week.
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