Shuli Rand's marriage of additional wife highlights inequality - women's orgs

"Women refused a get (Jewish divorce document) don't have a magical permit that allows for a second marriage if the husband refuses to let go."

SHULI RAND: It is my life story (photo credit: YAEL HERMAN)
SHULI RAND: It is my life story
(photo credit: YAEL HERMAN)

The marriage of ultra-Orthodox music and film star Shuli Rand to TV personality Tzufit Grant on Wednesday caused widespread discussion of divorce in Israel after Rand received permission for the marriage from the rabbinate, despite still being married to his first wife.

In Israel, polygamy is illegal unless you are a Jewish man with permission from the Rabbinical Court. Although Rand’s first wife, Michal, refused to agree to a divorce, Rand reportedly received an exemption signed by 100 rabbis that allowed him to remarry.

Mavoi Satum, an organization that aids women who have been refused a Jewish divorce by their husbands, congratulated Rand in a Facebook post, writing, “Marriage is a very happy occasion, especially when you have a choice in the matter, a choice that thousands of women do not have, because women refused a get [Jewish divorce document] don’t have a magical permit that allows for a second marriage if the husband refuses to let go.

“Shuli was given a permit to marry another wife by the Rabbinical Court not because he is well known or above the law, but simply because according to Halacha [Jewish law], it is allowed to give him the permit. Men are allowed. For women, it is forbidden.”

THE RABBINICAL COURT's division for Agunot in Jerusalem in 2017 (credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)THE RABBINICAL COURT's division for Agunot in Jerusalem in 2017 (credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)

Center for Women’s Justice legal department head Nitzan Caspi Shiloni, emphasized that this is not a trivial thing.

“The law only makes an exception for Jewish men,” she wrote on Twitter. “A Muslim man would still have criminal responsibility even if the Sharia court had given him a permit. Equality in the eyes of the law is not exactly at work here.

“A woman refused a get can never be free of her marriage, in the eyes of the rabbinical court; unless her husband gives her a get, she has no path out as far as they are concerned.”

 

RAND’S PERMISSION to marry another wife is not all that rare. Around 15 such permits are granted every year, said Caspi Shiloni, who added that this number does not reflect the entire picture.

“Because a man has a way out, a female get-refuser has less incentive to stand her ground from the get go,” she explained.

“In Israel, thousands of women are [refused a get] – and not only do they not have any way out, but the impact on their lives is huge, as opposed to the impact on the life of a man who is refused a get. If [such women] live with another man, there will be halachic and financial consequences and their children will be labeled mamzerim.”

Mamzer is a status given to children born from relationships forbidden by Jewish law, including those born to women refused a get who have children with men who are not their get-refusers.

Currently, those labeled mamzerim by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate or those who are at risk of being so labeled face numerous challenges in Israel.

The most well-known limitation mamzerim face is that they can only marry other mamzerim or converts. Lesser-known problems created by the status have to do with who is listed as the father of a child in cases where the state believes there is potential to label a child as a mamzer.

Israeli law requires that a woman’s legal husband be listed as the father of her child even in cases where it is clear he is not. Children born within 300 days of a woman’s divorce are also registered as the children of her ex-husband, according to the Tears of the Oppressed Forum.

If the woman refuses to list her ex-husband or husband as the father, the child will be listed as fatherless.

This creates numerous legal challenges for these children and sometimes puts their mother’s get-refusers in a position of dangerous influence in their lives. A man listed as the child’s father can influence a number of important factors, such as medical treatment and obtaining a passport.

Rand had an extremely acrimonious split from his previous wife in 2016. Michal accused him of abandoning her to pursue other women and of not supporting their seven children, and a long he-said-she-said conflict played out in the media. She sued him for NIS 2.5 million and each said they had been physically abused by the other.

Hannah Brown contributed to this report.