Israeli academic ostracized for refusing divorce


An Israeli academic has been formally ostracized by the Supreme Rabbinical Court after refusing to grant his wife a divorce.

The man in question is a doctor of physics and former lecturer at a university in Tel Aviv, the Jerusalem Post reports. He has reportedly denied repeated requests from his estranged wife for a ‘get’ (traditional Jewish divorce document) for nearly four years. Unlike some recalcitrant Jewish husbands, he has made no demands, simply saying that he hopes to eventually reconcile with his wife.

But the Supreme Rabbinical Court – the highest religious authority in the country – has now lost patience. The academic had been ordered to the attend the court and issue his wife with the bill of divorce on pain of a rare ‘public ostracism’ order. He did not show up.

The court therefore published the man’s name and address and ordered the surrounding community to turn their backs on him. Amongst other strictures, his neighbours and acquaintances may not do business with the man, talk to him, allow him to enter their homes, give him food or drink, or visit him if he falls ill. He is also not to be given a seat at the local synagogue.

The order will only be cancelled once the man “reverses his stubbornness, listens to the voices of his teachers, and gives a divorce to his wife and releases her from her chains.”

He attempted to appeal the order but his claim was rejected, the paper reports. The decision to ostracize the man rather than commit him to prison attracted some criticism.

Jewish divorce is strictly consensual: both parties must agree. Therefore women require the cooperation of their husbands to obtain a get, and men who wish to make life difficult for their estranged wives may refuse to issue this. Women whose husbands have refused to present them with a get are known as agunot (‘chained women’) in Hebrew. In such situations, when faced with women determined to divorce their difficult husbands, rabbinical courts can penalise the men until they agree.

Image by David Ortmann via Flickr

Stowe Family Law Web Team

View more from this author


Andrew - February 23, 2016 at 8:25pm

If he is not religious he will not care. Nobody among his colleagues can be forced to obey this absurd order. At the worst he will have to find somewhere new to buy his groceries.

D - February 24, 2016 at 10:09am

“Jewish divorce is strictly consensual” and ” rabbinical courts can penalise the men until they agree.” makes for an interesting definition of consensual; one that is a bit of a joke really.

Stitchedup - February 24, 2016 at 11:28am


JamesB - February 26, 2016 at 10:29am

Excellent post D. You are right, these places are quite often farcical.

There is some pre amble to one of the court orders in favour of my ex wife (I couldn’t afford legal representation). Goes like this.

Upon hearing counsel for the applicant mother and the father not attending but the court being satisfied that he knew about the hearing (it was booked for a time I was away and strangely my ex wife’s solicitor wouldn’t agree to move it and I would have had to apply post the hearing for it to be moved and the order says if comes back to court again father to pay punitive costs, the one final hearing I had), it is ordered by consent and where necessary by the court that the following shall happen …

then I got stitchedup. The thing being its either by consent or not as you rightly point out very well.

The problem these courts are trying to cover up and sweep under the carpet is that people have lost confidence and they lack credibility. By the time my case got to court the situation was a farce anyway as provided I get to see the children from time to time the court will not enforce contact order which makes them worthless anyway. If you try to enforce them the contact is reduced.

JamesB - February 26, 2016 at 10:41am

She had a Q.C. (Queens Counsel), probably went to lunch with the Judge afterwards. Kids and I got rubbish, strange how these courts carry on, I suppose its lack of an alternative or perhaps a lack of political accountability by the people (politicians) who write the law. On her side were solicitor, solicitors assistant, Counsel (Q.C.) and her. On my side was empty bench. Cafcass officer was overruled also and leant on to lie. I was found to have not seen the children when I was offered contact (when I knocked on the door to pick up they weren’t there) and all the cafcass report that I was good father and always turned up was disregarded. Complete bull. Moral of the story, don’t expect justice in civil court, I have grown away from that, used to believe in it.

JamesB - February 26, 2016 at 10:48am

With re to the Jewish courts. I believe you can have a civil or religious marriage and most go for the civil option (over 90%).

With re to the issue at stake I agree with D, either something is by consent or it is not. The Judge (Rabbi?) here should make an order making more sense than this, just blaming the husband. Which is what I got a lot of and says more about the person shouting than the husband. Blaming the husband is the easy option as he is in the way. See it on this and other court pages day in day out, it is endemic in court process and it is not usual for a reasonable man to go to divorce court expecting not to be made fun out of.

I also sympathise with anyone going to court (including the teenage girls with Andy Johnson the footballer and his ex girlfriend) court is horrible especially where contested and unrepresented and without money. Best avoided if at all possible. Best made better by those concerned.

JamesB - February 26, 2016 at 11:01am

As for me, I need to go and leave this now maybe indefinitely to do other nicer things hopefully perhaps as I am thinking posting on here probably brings it back and that might not be good although perhaps it is to think through and resolve it, not sure. Anyway, is hard but trying to be ok. All the best and Regards to you all.

Helen Dudden - October 29, 2017 at 7:39am

No one is blaming anyone. It is Jewish Religious Law. I think some of the comments have not understood what is being said.

Leave a comment