Back to the middle ages? (Illustration)
The Great Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem rendered a rare ruling Thursday, forcing a woman to agree to a divorce because she was diagnosed with epilepsy.
According to a report in Yedioth Ahronoth, the court further ruled the woman will not be eligible for alimony. The husband was, however, obligated to pay her the full amount mentioned in her ketubah – NIS 18,000 (approx $5,000).
The Jerusalem court's ruling cemented a previous decree made by the Tiberias Rabbinical Court, which ruled epilepsy was a "great deformity," thus enabling the husband to force a divorce on his wife.
Cause and Effect?
Secular-religious status-quo may tilt as Ministerial Committee on Legislation passes bill expanding rabbinical courts' authorities to include property settlements, despite Justice Ministry's objections. Bill defies religious courts' original purpose, says ministry
The couple was married for 12 years and has two children. The woman was reportedly involved in a car accident prior to the marriage and sustained a severe head injury. The husband first filed for divorce two years ago, but was denied by the Tiberias Rabbinical Court, which cited insufficient grounds.
According to the husband's attorney, Zion Smucha, the man became aware of his wife's condition only after witnessing a seizure during an event the two attended separately. He then refiled his petition.
Outdated halachic ruling
The Tiberias Court appointed neurologist Amikam Reshef of Haemek Medical Center in Afula to assess the woman's medical condition, but deemed an examination was unnecessary, ordering the doctor to make his diagnosis based on the woman's medical records – which led Dr. Reshef to diagnose the woman as suffering from epilepsy.
The court further found that the husband was aware of his wife's condition, and the fact that she was treated for it, prior to the marriage, but since she demonstrated no symptoms, the seizure could be construed as a new medical condition.
The court then relied on a halachic ruling, dating back several hundred years, deeming epilepsy a physical deformity that can be used as grounds for divorce.
The woman appealed the Tiberias Court's decision at the Great Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem, saying she was not properly examined and that therefore her diagnosis should be declared null and void. She further claimed that epilepsy could not be used as grounds for divorce.
However, as noted, the Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem chose to side with the husband.
"Have we gone back to the middle ages? What is this? The rabbis are going by a religious ruling rendered centuries ago. People with epilepsy live full lives just like everybody else," said the woman's attorney, Avraham Stern, adding his client intends to file a petition with the High Court to have the ruling overturned.