Rabbi Eliyahu Maimon. 'We saw it as a great privilege to help end the woman's suffering'
A South American priest sends his Jewish wife divorce papers on a plane headed to Israel. Sound like an imaginary story or the start of a joke? Well, the woman, who had been chained to her marriage for 25 years, was less amused, but at least she's finally free.
The couple had immigrated to Israel from South America and settled in the southern city of Arad with their two daughters. A year later, after the husband's business failed and his relationship with his wife ran into difficulties, he flew abroad - allegedly to visit his family - but never returned.
The wife was left alone with her daughters and no money. When she realized her husband was not coming back, she tried to appeal to him through his parents to divorce her, but to no avail. She filed for divorce in the rabbinical court, but the man refused to cooperate.
Rabbi Levi Brackman
In Judaism, when a man refuses to give his wife a religious divorce he is taking away her most basic human right – her freedom to live and be who she wants to be.
Several years later, the two daughters decided to visit their father and try to convince him to grant their mother a divorce. After they located him, he introduced them to his new wife, explaining that he had obtained a civil divorce which allegedly released him from his marriage to their mother. The surprised daughters demanded that he grant their mother a get (Jewish religious divorce), but he refused.
Lost in Uruguay
The woman's relatives, who live in Uruguay, turned to local rabbis and asked for their help. Then, for the first time, the divorce recalcitrant agreed to grant his wife a get as long as his old debts would be paid. Shortly afterwards, however, he disappeared.
The case was then handed over to the Rabbinical Courts Administration's Department for Agunot (women chained to their marriage), which hired private investigators to try to locate the husband. The investigation revealed that the man had converted to Christianity and become a priest in a remote village in Uruguay. They began negotiating with him until he agreed to meet with a representative of the country's Jewish community.
Local Rabbi Gabriel Davidovich met with the husband and explained to him how important it was to grant his wife a get. After months-long efforts, the man expressed his agreement in principle to a divorce. After he received all the divorce papers translated into Spanish and approved by a notary, at his request, the get was sent to Israel and granted to his wife, who was finally released from her marriage 25 years after he had left her.
"The policy of the Department for Agunot is that cases involving agunot have no expiration date, and they remain open and active even if the couple separated many years ago," explains Rabbi Eliyahu Maimon, head of the Rabbinical Courts Administration's Department for Agunot.
"In this case, we saw it as a great privilege to help end the suffering of a woman who was abandoned with her two daughters by her husband, without any living means, while being deprived of the basic right to freedom and a relationship.
"I would like to thank Rabbi Gabriel Davidovich for his great patience and dedication without any return, which led to the end of this grim affair."