Rabbis: Video use OK in divorce cases

Reject Supreme Court's opinion, ruling infidelity footage can be used.

jerusalem rabbinate 248.88 (photo credit: Knesset Channel)
jerusalem rabbinate 248.88
(photo credit: Knesset Channel)
The Netanya Rabbinic Court rejected a Supreme Court decision and ruled Tuesday that intimate video footage of a married woman's infidelity could be used as evidence in a divorce case. The decision to confront the Supreme Court is part of an ongoing power struggle between the rabbinic and civil judicial systems. The rabbinic court's spokesman's office aggressively publicized Tuesday's ruling. Rabbinic courts have jurisdiction over marital status and divorces in cases involving Jewish couples. However, secular family courts have the power to rule on child custody, child support, alimony and other monetary matters. Rabbinic courts rule on the basis of halacha - Jewish law - which often clashes with civil law. The case of the clandestine video is one such case. Two months ago, the Supreme Court overturned a decision of the High Rabbinic Court because it allowed a husband in a divorce case to submit the video of his wife's sexual activity. The Supreme Court said that by accepting the video as evidence, the rabbinic court had violated the wife's right to privacy. Tuesday, Rabbis Haim Shalom Shanan, Michael Amos and David Bardugo of the Netanya Rabbinic Court ruled that the footage could be used to force the unfaithful wife to accept a get - a writ of divorce. The judges wrote in their decision that under Jewish law, the husband is obligated to divorce his wife after viewing the video of his wife's indiscretions, even if the video was obtained illegally. "The husband cannot ignore the video any more than an employer can overlook a prospective employee's record of theft, no matter how that record is obtained," they wrote. The dispute over use of the video is part of the rabbinic courts' push for increased jurisdiction and autonomy. The rabbinic courts have gone on the offensive over the past few months in the wake of a recent Supreme Court decision that severely curtailed the rabbinic courts' jurisdiction over monetary matters. Supreme Court Justice Ayala Procaccia ruled in April that civil courts would not honor an arbitration agreement involving monetary matters that was reached in a state rabbinic court, even if both parties had originally agreed to accept the rabbinic court's decision. Since Procaccia's ruling, Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, administrative head of the rabbinic courts, Shimon Ya'acobi, legal adviser to the courts, and Shas MKs have drafted legislation that would bypass the Supreme Court ruling and strengthen the rabbinic courts. Shas and the rabbinic court officials have demanded that rabbinic courts be given full jurisdiction over monetary matters when both parties in a case agree. They also are asking that all divorce cases that begin in the rabbinic courts be settled there. Currently, many divorce cases are transferred from the rabbinic courts to the family courts to settle monetary and child custody issues, and then returned to the rabbinic courts to finalize the divorce. Women generally prefer family courts over rabbinic courts, saying Jewish law is biased in favor of men. The foundations for the Shas legislation were established in the coalition agreement between Shas and Kadima. Shortly after the agreement was signed, Justice Minister Haim Ramon (Kadima) directed officials in the ministry to prepare a memorandum as a precursor to a final draft of the bill. However, Ramon has encountered opposition within his ministry to the proposed expansion of rabbinic court jurisdiction. Ramon and ministry officials met this week with Ben-Dahan and Ya'acobi in an attempt to reach a compromise.