Israeli High Court makes rare intervention in Rabbinical divorce ruling

The Israeli High Court of Justice has made an “unprecedented” intervention in a ruling by the Supreme Rabbinical Court.

The High Court blocked the release of a man jailed for refusing to divorce his wife, newspaper Haaretz reports. The Supreme Rabbinical Court – the country’s highest religious court – had planned to release the man if his wife did not withdraw a lawsuit for damages she had issued against her husband.

The case concerned a couple who originally separated in 2002. The wife filed for divorce but the husband would not consent. Under traditional Jewish law, the husband’s consent is required to issue a ‘get (divorce document).

Couples who divorce under civil law will still be considered married under Jewish law without the issue of a ‘get’.

After four years, the couple’s local rabbinical court ruled that the husband was obligated to issue a divorce, but he responded by making his conditions for granting a divorce even more difficult to meet.

Eventually, the wife filed the civil lawsuit in 2010. In October last year, the rabbinical court jailed the husband for his continuing failure to grant the divorce. Then in December the Supreme Rabbinical Court intervened, saying that although the husband deserved his sentence, he would nevertheless be released if the woman did not withdraw her lawsuit. They claimed that the suit amounted to interference with both the discretion of  the rabbinical court and the husband’s freedom to issue the ‘get’ document.

The wife appealed to the civil Supreme Court, and Justice Uzi Vogelman issued an temporary injunction, ruling that the man must stay behind bars until his wife’s complaint could be fully considered.

Vogelman’s ruling surprised the rabbinical court. Haaretz quotes an unnamed source saying:

“This has no precedent. While there have been past attempts, the High Court has never interfered in a din Torah [religious court case] and the way in which the batei din [rabbinical courts] interpret Torah law.”

Photo of the Supreme Court of Israel by Almog via Wikipedia

1 comment

Alice Fremont - January 31, 2013 at 8:20pm

That’s so crazy! She should be allowed to file for divorce if she is unhappy. Her husband needs to just live and deal with it.

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