“My beautiful mommy, I love you. I’m proud of you and I’m with you all the way. Good luck.” This was the SMS Orit received from her daughter while she was still in the rabbinic court waiting for a get from her husband who had refused her a divorce for 11 years. “May the old year and its curses end – and may the new year and its blessings begin,” the judge wished Orit moments before the delivery of the get. And indeed, Orit began the new year as a free and finally happy woman.
The Tel Aviv Rabbinic Court was in turmoil when the recalcitrant husband was brought from jail accompanied by policemen, bound by handcuffs and chains on his legs like an ordinary criminal. Beyond the tears, joy, hugs and great excitement, it was a good lesson on how to deal with men who refuse to give their wives a get – it just requires a show of some rabbinic muscle.
I was told that there were new tribunals in the Tel Aviv Rabbinic Court that were quick to solve problems of women abandoned without a divorce, to locate husbands who had disappeared, and to persuade rebellious men to release their wives. This time, I saw it with my own eyes. Hard work on the part of investigators and detectives from the Rabbinic Courts Administration led to the capture of a husband who had disappeared from sight and the law for many years. But obviously just finding him was not enough. Six years ago, detectives had also located the same husband and brought him to court, handcuffed and escorted by the police. But in 2004, the court released the man after he succeeded in persuading the judges that he needed time to think about whether or not to give his wife a get – at home and without handcuffs. The husband promised to return after the weekend, but, predictably, did not.
This time the judges acted decisively in order to guarantee that the husband would give the get without terms, without demands, without deliberation, and, of course, without disappearing again. The judges made it unequivocally clear to the husband that he would sit in jail for the entire period that it would take to convince him of this: “We aren’t forcing you to give a get," a judge told him when he was brought to court the previous week, “we just want to make sure that you show up for hearings. The only way to make this happen is to keep you in jail.” Over the weekend, the cockroaches and mice in the jail did the rest of the convincing.
“All's well that ends well,” one of the friendly clerks told Orit. It’s a pity I can’t agree with him. All is not well. Orit endured much unnecessary suffering, wasted much energy and money, and missed out on innumerable relationships because of the unbearable ease with which a rabbinic court had released her husband from custody in 2004. At that time, he had already been recalcitrant for 4 years and was making “extortionist” demands, asking his wife to give up her rights in matters that had already been decided in the family courts.
On the beginning of this new Hebrew calendar year, 5771, we salute the panel of the Tel Aviv Rabbinic Court that acted with determination, efficiency and wisdom in order to bring Orit’s case to its final resolution. May He grant all rabbinic court the wisdom to do the same. Amen.
Rivkah Lubitch is a rabbinic court pleader who works at The Center for Women’s Justice , tel. 972-2-5664390.
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