A report summarizing the activity of rabbinical courts in 2012 reveals a rise in the State of Israel's
divorce rates, alongside a slight step up in sanctions against divorce recalcitrants and violent husbands.
In addition, the accepted correlation between a high level of religiousness and a low divorce rate has been refuted.
The figures presented in the report point to a further increase in the number of couples getting divorced in the State of Israel in the past two years – from 9,640 couples in 2010 to 10,964 couples in 2012. In the past year alone, Israel's divorce rate went up 5%.
The figures also reveal that the divorce rate is not necessarily affected by the couple's piety level. The ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, located in the middle of the chart with 147 divorces in the past year, precedes secular cities like Givatayim and Ramat Hasharon.
The city with the lowest divorce rate in Israel is Afula.
According to the report, Tel Aviv maintains its place at the top of the list with the highest divorce rate among Israel's cities (711 couples), followed by Jerusalem with 705 divorced couples.
As for the treatment of women whose husbands refuse to grant them a divorce, the courts presented figures pointing to tighter sanctions against divorce recalcitrants. Some 60 sentences issued in 2012, compared to 41 the previous year, include hold-departure orders, suspended driver's licenses and frozen bank accounts.
The courts issued 20 arrest warrants against divorce recalcitrants in 2012, compared to just 13 in 2011. The courts also reported of an increase in the number of restraining orders issued against violent husbands, from 81 in 2011 to 159 in the past year.
The courts were particularly successful in dealing with "agunot," women whose husbands have left the country without granting them a divorce. The Chief Rabbinate's special unit managed to obtain a "get" (divorce) for 163 women, compared to only 97 the previous year.
The figures also reveal that the files opened at Israel's rabbinical courts in 2012 include 30 irreligious couples who asked to marry as part of the "coupling arrangement" solution, alongside 75 requests to take a second wife (while still being married to the first one).
Only 14 conversion requests were submitted to the Chief Rabbinate, compared to 4,237 files submitted by Israelis seeking to clarify their Jewishness.
Attorney Batya Kahana-Dror, executive director of the Mavoi Satum organization which provides legal and emotional support to women who have been refused a Jewish divorce, said in response to the figures that the Rabbinical Court Administration would rather not reveal the real number of women refused a divorce, and that the report was therefore incomplete.
"Addressing the number of sanctions imposed on get refusers without comparative data is misleading the public," she said.
"The courts are hiding their conservative stance from the public, which sees arrest and forced divorce as prohibited, making the get not kosher. Therefore, they avoid forcing the reluctant husbands into a divorce as much as they can, turning the get into a extortive bargaining chip in the divorce process.
"The result of the courts' policy is thousands of women in Israel who have been taken captive by their husbands and cannot move on with their lives, start a new family and have children."