Divorce controversy bound for Israeli Supreme Court


Supporters of an Israeli woman who was granted a divorce two years ago have turned to the Supreme Court to try and stop a rabbinical court from nullifying the split.

The former wife, from the northern city of Safed (Tzfat), succeeded in legally divorcing her husband despite the man having been incapacitated in a serious car accident seven years previously. He was left in a persistent vegetative state.

Jewish law requires the husband to consent to a divorce and issue her with a document known in Hebrew as a get. If he fails to do so, the wife remains legally married to him ,even if she is determined to divorce him, and is consequently known as an agunah or chained woman.

The wife of the accident victim, referred to as ‘S’, faced a very specific problem; as her husband was in a coma, he was unable to consent to the divorce. She managed persuaded a court in Safed to issue a rare form of get, in which the rabbinical judges acted as legal representatives of the husband, in order to grant what they believed would have been his wishes.

It was a controversial decision, with some rabbinical authorities endorsing the ruling and others expressing their opposition. Opponents included the Chief Rabbi of the Sephardi community, Yitzhak Yosef.

Not long after the ruling was handed down, Arutz Sheva 7 reports, an uninvolved third party who disagreed with the decision took the unusual step of filing an appeal with the Supreme Rabbinic Court and the latter subsequently elected to take on the case, to the disappointment of women’s rights campaigners.

Mavoi Satum, also known as the Organization for the Rights of Abandoned Women, has now turned to the civil Supreme Court to try and prevent the Supreme Rabbinic Court from declaring the earlier divorce void or at in breach of the Halakha (collective body of Jewish religious laws).

Mavoi Satum Chair David Stav insisted:

“You can’t take advantage of technical authority to nullify a divorce that was already approved. According to Jewish law, a court cannot nullify a separate court’s decision if it was properly rendered. There is no way that a court will actively work to make a woman bound again to her [former marriage] when neither the husband’s family nor the wife made any appeal on the decision.”

Photo of Safed by Matic 18 via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons licence

Stowe Family Law Web Team

View more from this author

Leave a comment