The husband declared he would never give his wife a divorce, the judges in Israel's religious courts were indifferent, and then the man fled to Britain with the help of his family, leaving her to take care of their disabled daughter. The woman thought she would remain abandoned forever, until Rabbi Yisroel Yaakov Lichtenstein of London entered the picture.
The rabbi took the woman's story as a personal project, and even conveyed a message to the husband's family that should the situation continue they would be expelled from their synagogue.
The threat made an impact, and the refusing husband initiated a phone call to the rabbi, saying he agrees to grant the longed for divorce. So can the solution for abandoned women in Israel only come from rabbis abroad? Here is something for Israel's religious judges to think about.
About five years ago I filed for a divorce after five difficult years of marriage, which included physical, mental and economic violence, with my husband agreeing to work only once a week. I worked full-time of course.
My ex-husband and I have a daughter together. She seemed healthy when she was born, but when she turned 18 months we noticed there was something wrong with her in terms of development. After consulting a number of doctors for about half a year, we found out that the girl was suffering from a difficult syndrome and that her condition could only deteriorate, and unfortunately that's what happened.
As time went by, the child stopped speaking altogether, lost her ability to walk, stopped communicating and also suffered from epilepsy. In addition to a 100% disabled child, I also had a bad husband.
In 2003, I filed for a divorce without my ex-husband's knowledge. In previous years I wanted to divorce but was afraid of him because I knew he refused to be divorced. The week his mother came to Israel I knew I could leave the house with the girl, and when the movers came, my husband made sure that I only take mine and her clothes.
The divorce procedure was very difficult. The husband played tricks and caused difficulties. He wanted the plot I owned, claiming that it was only his, he refused to pay alimony, and indeed did not pay anything. The entire Execution Office procedures failed. There was no way to collect money from him.
At the court he swore that he would never give me a divorce, and didn't bother showing up to most hearings. When he did show up, he would cause difficulties with the judges, and the discussions would end with nothing.
Unfortunately, the Netanya Rabbinical Court never took any measures against the husband. I was the one who had to maneuver like a tiger between the discussions and the enforcement attempts against the husband, while functioning at work, running the house and raising the child.
Fleeing the country
About two and a half years ago, the husband escaped to his family in England, despite a stay of exit order issued against him. I don’t know how he managed to flee. He must have received help from people he knew in Israel, and left me abandoned without the possibility of being granted a divorce.
It took me about a year and a half to discover that he was in England with his family, who protected him and concealed the fact that he was there. They did not say he was in England, claiming they didn't know where he was.
About a year ago, I turned to Mr. David Einhorn of Raanana after a couple of friends of mine told me that he helps abandoned wives. Two months later he traveled to England to look for him, and spoke to the family and to Rabbi Yisroel Yaakov Lichtenstein, head of the Federation of Synagogues Beis Din (Jewish Court) in London. Unfortunately, the trip failed and he returned empty-handed.
But my connection with Rabbi Lichtenstein, who took my story as a personal project, continued. I was in contact with him since then, and together (with him in England and me in Israel) we continued to do everything in a bid to locate the husband.
Rabbi Lichtenstein's battle
As part of my efforts to find the missing husband, I wrote an article in a local newspaper in England, and at the same time, Rabbi Lichtenstein corresponded with the rabbinate in Israel, spoke with my ex-husband's sister and got the feeling from the conversations that they were hiding him.
He wrote an angry letter to the Netanya Rabbinate and told them that he believes the husband's family is hiding him, claiming they were assisting an offender. He also spoke to the rabbi of the synagogue where the family used to pray, informed him of the matter, told him that I must not remain abandoned and conveyed a message to the family that if this situation continues they would be expelled from the synagogue due to their assistance to hide a refusing husband.
Simultaneously, I turned to a private investigator specializing in locating missing people. He also contacted Rabbi Lichtenstein and unfortunately found no traces of the husband, as the family made sure to hide him well.
In the meantime, I received a divorce affirmation from the court in Israel, and when Rabbi Lichtenstein received the copy he made sure to inform the husband's mother and sister. The rabbi did not let go and made sure that the entire community knows about this, until one day the husband called Rabbi Lichtenstein and told him that he would be willing to grant me a divorce – and that's what happened.
Rabbi Lichtenstein fought to get me out of my state of abandonment for about a year and a half.
The woman asked not to reveal her name
Ynet received the document from the Rabbinical Center of Europe, which has been working over the past years to create cooperation between the Jewish communities across Europe in a bid to locate husbands who refuse to grant their wives a divorce and force them to do so