(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Beit Hillel, a centrist association of 170 national-religious rabbis and female
Jewish scholars, has initiated a campaign to encourage the use of prenuptial
agreements designed to help solve the problem of spouses refusing to give or
accept a halachic bill of divorce, or “get.”
A policy statement issued by
Beit Hillel said that the problem of get refusal was getting worse and that
action must be taken to address the issue.
“The problem of get refusal,
which affects both men and women, is spreading and becoming more widespread,”
the group said in a statement announcing the initiative.
“When one of the
partners getting divorced understands that they have certain powers in deciding
whether or not to give or accept the bill of divorce, it can be used as a form
of extortion or revenge.”
In Jewish law, a woman must obtain a bill of
divorce from her husband before she is able to marry again.
women’s rights groups, there are several thousand open cases of men refusing to
give their wives a get, using it as a tool to extort more favorable terms in the
A woman may also refuse to accept a get from her
husband, thereby preventing completion of the divorce, but a man is permitted to
live with another woman and have children in such a situation according to
Halacha, whereas a woman cannot, and so the phenomenon of recalcitrant husbands
is much more widespread.
According to a recent study, 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 percent of the
cases took more than four years before a get was given, and 28.4 percent took at
least two years.
Although according to the law, marriage registrars, who
work within the local religious councils or rabbinates, must authorize a
prenuptial agreement, in practice many registrars have refused to do so, fearing
that the document may not be in accordance with Halacha.
issued by the Attorney-General’s Office in coordination with the Religious
Services Ministry several months ago has helped prevent this problem to some
Although several women’s rights groups, including Orthodox ones,
have been promoting the issue of halachic prenuptial agreements for some time,
Beit Hillel says it is the first Orthodox rabbinic organization to back the idea
in Israel. Halachic prenuptial agreements are commonplace in North
Beit Hillel director Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth said that it was vital
that the signing of prenuptial agreements becomes commonplace in Israel in order
to prevent get refusal.
“Signing this agreement means in practice that it
just doesn’t pay to refuse your spouse a bill of divorce,” said Noibert. “In
most cases, this is an effective tool to prevent the problem from arising, which
is why it is so important that the Israeli public, including young couples and
their parents, become aware of this option.”
The rabbinic organization
said it is calling on all segments of Israeli society to start using prenuptial
agreements that would effectively end the phenomenon of get refusal. The
document works by putting financial pressure on the recalcitrant party through
exacting a hefty fine every month until he gives or she accepts the
“We encourage all couples in Israel who are getting married to sign
before they wed, and in so doing will demonstrate their love and devotion to
each other,” the Beit Hillel rabbis stated, describing the principle as akin to
strapping on a safety belt before setting off on a car journey.
widespread belief among couples getting married is that ‘it won’t happen,’ [that
they will get divorced].
But the prenuptial agreement is an amendment
that serves as a form of security, exactly as the Sages established when
establishing the marriage contract,” Beit Hillel said.
According to the
group, the principle of signing halachically approved prenuptial agreements has
the backing of senior national-religious leader and dean of Har Etzion Yeshiva
Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, as well as Rabbi Nachum Rabinowitz, the dean of
Birkat Moshe Yeshiva in Ma’aleh Adumim.
Mavoi Satum, a women’s divorce
rights group that has strongly promoted halachic prenuptial agreements, is
helping advance legislation in the Knesset that would make it obligatory for
couples registering for marriage to either sign a declaration that they are not
interested in such an arrangement, or to sign such a prenuptial agreement at the
time of registering.
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