Israeli Men Could Face Prison For Refusing To Grant Divorces

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TEL AVIV – Israeli men who refuse to grant a Jewish religious divorce to their wives can now be indicted and serve long prison sentences, the Justice Ministry said Monday.

A new directive will allow the judiciary to become involved in what was previously the jurisdiction of the rabbinate.

Jewish law states that only the husband can end a marriage by providing his wife with a “get” – the Jewish divorce document. Since couples in Israel must go through the rabbinate to get divorced, many women have been left “chained” to their recalcitrant husbands who refuse to grant the “get.” Civil courts will now be allowed to prosecute and sentence husbands who refuse to follow the rulings of rabbinical judges.

There are thousands of women in Israel who are trapped in their marriages because of get-refusal. A small number of men are also “chained” because of their wives’ refusal to accept the get, but the repercussions are far less critical for men in Jewish law.

Women who are “chained” lose their basic rights to remarry and to have a child who is not categorized as a “mamzer” – an illegitimate child.

“This is a real improvement in the battle against get-refusers,” the director of rabbinical courts, Shimon Yaakobi, said. “Get-refusers and anyone who helps them will know that from now they will have no respite until the wife is freed.”