Regev Responds

Shedding light on rabbinic injustice, especially regarding women's rights

A shocking Rabbinic Court ruling regarding a battered wife

Hiddush has repeatedly challenged the continued monopoly of the Chief Rabbinate and rabbinic courts over matters of personal status of all Jews in Israel. Last week, we saw one of the most shocking and deplorable examples of why this authority should urgently be withdrawn.

Tears, source: WikipediaTears, source: Wikipedia

In a divorce case brought before the rabbinic courts by a woman represented by attorneys from Mavoi Satum ("Dead End" - an Orthodox organization working diligently for women fighting for divorces from recalcitrant husbands), the rabbinic court refused to order the husband to divorce his wife, even though he used violence against her. Mavoi Satum has just appealed to the Attorney General to intervene in the matter. This will clearly not be the last we hear of this case and Mavoi Satum's important work in the field, but given the nature of the case, we feel it's important to shed light on this close-mindedness and injustice, especially when it comes to the rights and dignity of women.

When the case was brought back before the rabbinic court of Jerusalem, which had previously rejected the wife's divorce suit, the wife's representatives presented the criminal conviction of the husband for physical violence against his wife to the Court, as well as two additional charge sheets for other physical acts of violence and threats against her. The Court noted that the husband admitted his guilt, saying, "I confess and am aware of the mistake I made." The court also recorded the husband's brother's testimony that the filed divorce suit and poor relationship with his wife brought "mental and physical deterioration and a state of constant stress" to the husband.

On the other hand, there is also no doubt that the husband's outburst followed on the difficult conditions he is in as a result of the divorce suit his wife filed against him...

After paying lip service to violence against wives, the court went on to disregard the significance of the violence and blamed the victim. The Court said, "Undoubtedly, every instance of a husband hurting his wife is unjustified under any circumstance, and should be related to with severity and denounced, especially such serious violence as described in the charge sheet. On the other hand, there is also no doubt that the husband's outburst followed on the difficult conditions he is in as a result of the divorce suit his wife filed against him; and there is no doubt that if the wife accepted the husband's request to attempt to return normal life together, this occurrence would not have happened... It can be assessed with certainty that the event occurred following the filing of the divorce suit and the conflict that ensued. Had the divorce suit not been submitted, it should be assumed that this event would not have come about. Also, we are dealing with an exceptional event in which the husband admitted the mistake he made, and it's reasonable to assume that he will not repeat it in the future. Also, it should be noted that the wife's representative in the criminal court stated that the husband does not have a criminal record, namely: this occurrence is a one-time and exceptional event."

What the court did not reveal in its ruling is that in addition to the conviction, which it mentioned, the wife's representatives also presented two additional criminal charge sheets relating to two additional instances of physical violence against the wife, and it should be mentioned that in the last few days since the rabbinic court's decision, these too have resulted in convictions.

Rabbinic courts that satisfy themselves with paying lip service to the odious phenomenon of wife beating and feel that the case of a husband’s violence, which results in the wife’s filing a divorce suit, is understandable and tolerable, and halakhically(!) conclude that the wife should cede to her husband's demand that she remain in their marriage… these reminds us of attitudes towards wife beating in Israel’s neighboring countries, and recent pronouncements regarding wife beating not being grounds for divorce. "Blaming the victim," which is so repulsive though common in rape cases, is rearing its ugly head in the rabbinic courts themselves, and serves as an unconscionable basis for halakhic rulings of these State empowered and monopolistically mandated institutions. Getting rid of this unconscionable state of affairs that degrades and victimizes women and condones violence cannot happen soon enough. For the time being, we can only serve as messengers in shedding light on this sad state of affairs and acknowledging the important service of organizations such as Mavoi Satum.

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