Dayanim sitting on the fence
On one hand, wife describes serious emotional abuse and social worker testifies that “it’s hell.” On the other hand, husband asserts his wife’s family is inciting her against him. They are already separated for two years and what does the rabbinic court say? That the parties should reach a reasonable agreement by themselves
“I feel that I got the worst judgment possible,” Dafna (not her real name) said to me, crying on the telephone. “No, not at all,” I answered her. “But it’s a judgment that’s neither here nor there” Dafna again challenged me, “it doesn’t say anything. There’s nowhere to go with it.” “That’s right” I answered, “it’s neither here nor there.” And that’s exactly the position most women, and if you wish – men as well – find themselves in on the road to the hoped-for divorce. Neither here nor there.
Dafna, a religious woman who works in the field of education, is 28 years old and has been married for four years. The couple has 1 child. For the first two years of her marriage, Dafna, according to her account, experienced serious emotional abuse. Within two weeks of the wedding her husband already expressed regret that they had married and told her he wanted a divorce. Treating Dafna like a servant, he’d vigilantly supervise the order and cleanliness in the house and yell at her even about the way she mopped up the water when she washed the floor. He regularly threatened and humiliated her, even in front of friends and family: “You’re crap, trash of a woman,” “I’m sorry I married you” and “just wait…”
Dafna also claims that her husband showed no interest in conjugal relations with her, long before their final separation. She relates that time after time she came home from the mikveh to find an empty house (yes, she even has a note from the woman in charge of the mikveh that she immersed). Even after she gave birth, her husband had no interest in her at all. Her modest propositions of her husband led to his filing a complaint with the police that she had tried to rape him!
The final straw was when her husband yelled at Dafna’s parents: “I’ll be worse than Sadam Hussein,” “I’ll hospitalize your daughter,” and “I’ll chop her up into tiny pieces.” At this point Dafna’s parents let her know that they would support her until she got a divorce. Dafna went back to live in her parents’ house with her child.
The social worker who took care of the family testified before the rabbinic court as follows: “I wish to state in the name of the committee and my supervisor that there is no possibility of reconciliation and that there needs to be a divorce very soon and that any delay will only cause damage to the child.”
In answer to the court’s question as to whether the parties could get back together with the help of counseling and treatment the social worker answered “No, it’s hell.” She further testified “It’s absolutely over. There’s no chance of reconciliation.”
Undoubtedly a sad case
Do you get the picture? So here’s a snapshot of the judgment in Dafna’s case: “The case before us is the wife’s action for divorce, to compel the husband to give a divorce in the wake of long-term verbal abuse and humiliation. The husband denies the allegations and asserts that the wife’s family is responsible for the breakdown of the marriage because they are inciting her against him, and he is prepared to do everything to fix the situation and even to move to another apartment. The social worker, who was summoned to testify, stated that there was not the slightest chance whatsoever to undo the damage between the parties. It is, therefore, clear to us that the wife is asserting that the husband is ‘“repulsive” to her, however, on the other hand, we have no proof that the husband is responsible for this situation.
“Therefore, we have a situation here in which the halacha is that we ‘cannot bringing them together, nor drive them apart.’ We cannot compel the husband to give a divorce, however, on the other hand, we cannot compel the wife to live with her husband.” You can already figure out the conclusion of the judgment by yourselves…“The parties and their counsel should draft an appropriate divorce agreement that will end this sad affair.”
How pathetic and sad. On the one hand there is a 28 year old woman who finds her husband repulsive, she’s separated from him for almost two years and there is no chance that she’ll go back to him. She asks for a divorce so that she can lawfully marry and establish a home in Israel. On the other hand, three learned dayanim sit, roll their eyes to heaven and write on official paper of the State of Israel that “the parties and their counsel should draft an appropriate agreement that will end this said affair.” It’s really pathetic.
The response of the rabbinic court: “The wife appealed on January 4, 2010, and a date was set for April 28, 2010. On April 25, 2010, the parties asked to postpone the hearing and a new date was set for October 6, 2010. The date was set since no other date was found that was convenient for the court and for the parties. It’s a pity that the parties agreed to a postponement.”
Rivka Lubitch is a rabbinic pleader who works at the Center for Women’s Justice , tel. 02-5664390