Rabbinical Court window where prisoner escaped 370.
(photo credit: Melanie Lidman)
A 40-year-old prisoner who refused to give his wife a divorce according to
Jewish law escaped during a hearing at the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court on
According to Prisons Service spokeswoman Sivan
Weizman, Shai Cohen of Holon attended the hearing that ended around 1 p.m. He
then asked to go to the bathroom; Cohen was not handcuffed and did not have leg
shackles, as he had previously refused to attend court hearings in
Two guards from the Nachshom prison unit waited outside of the
bathroom with the door half open.
Suddenly, they heard the door slam and
lock. Once they were able to break through the door, they found Cohen had jumped
through the bathroom window to the courtyard two floors below.
bathroom did not have bars. Police found Cohen’s shoes on the ground near where
Immediately, large numbers of police showed up on the premises
and a helicopter began circling overhead.
Police believe that Cohen had
an accomplice who was waiting in a getaway car as Cohen had no wallet and no
cellphone when he escaped.
Cohen was jailed in October 2007 for refusing
to give his wife a get, or Jewish divorce. According to tradition, the man must
agree to give his wife the divorce, and Cohen has refused to do so for the past
12 years. This makes his wife an aguna, or chained woman, as she cannot get
remarried according to Jewish customs.
The rabbinical courts sentenced
Cohen to prison in hopes it would force him to change his mind. Cohen was known
as a “civilian prisoner” rather than a “criminal prisoner” because he had not
committed any official crimes. A few weeks ago, the rabbinical courts sentenced
Cohen to an additional year.
The estranged wife’s lawyer told reporters
that Cohen had agreed to a compromise and was on the verge of granting the get
before he fled.
The wife told reporters she also blamed the Prison
Service’s “negligence” in allowing her ex-husband to escape and accused the
guards of “acting like buddies.”
In 2012, the rabbinical courts issued 60
judgments against men who refused to grant their wives a divorce, ranging from
travel and financial restrictions to jail time. There are thousands of agunot in
Israel, according to Batya Kahane-Dror, an attorney and the director of the
aguna advocacy organization Mavoi Satum.