Rabbinical Court's exit ban forces US man to divorce wife

Court has final say in divorce of Jewish American couple that dragged on for 6 years.

agunot protest 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
agunot protest 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In a groundbreaking ruling, the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court had the final say this week in the divorce case of a Jewish American couple that has dragged on for six years, as the husband has refused to grant his wife a get (Jewish divorce). After three nights in jail and a ban preventing him from leaving the country, however, the wanton husband - who is not an Israeli citizen - finally succumbed to the demands of the Rabbinic Court Administration (RCA) and agreed to free his wife from their marriage. It was the first time that Israel's religious court system has ever flexed its muscles in a case involving Jews from abroad. "This is the first time that the Rabbinic Court Administration has imposed such sanctions on a person who is not a citizen of Israel," said a spokeswoman for the RCA, adding that the husband had "never really believed that the religious courts had this power, because he is not a citizen of this country." She explained that a change in legislation three years ago gave the RCA jurisdiction over cases involving Jews residing here who are not citizens. According to the information published Wednesday by the RCA, the man had been traveling back and forth between Israel and the US for the past two years, and therefore, under Israeli law, had established Israel as the center of his life. Just over a year ago, the wife petitioned the Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court, asking the administration to impose sanctions on her husband to obtain a get. The RCA then began the standard process of demands on husbands who refuse to agree to a divorce. At first he was asked to pay bail to the court to prove that he would stay in the country and show up for his hearings. When he refused, the court imposed a ban preventing him from leaving the country. Later, when the husband still did not agree to take the court's requests seriously, the presiding judge had him arrested, and he spent three days in jail. Earlier this week, the husband finally came to a hearing in the court and agreed to grant his wife a divorce.