Jerusalem – Prisoner Flees Rabbinical Court Through Window


Shabas officer ( Israeli prison authority) looking after a fugitive who escaped from the Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem, Wednesday, March 6, 2013. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 Jerusalem – A 40-year-old prisoner who refused to give his wife a divorce according to Jewish law escaped during a hearing at the Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem on Monday afternoon.

According to Prison Services spokeswoman Sivan Weizman, Shai Cohen, from Holon, attended the hearing that ended around 1:00 pm and asked to go to the bathroom. Cohen was not handcuffed and did not have leg shackles, as he had previously refused to attend court hearings in shackles.

Two guards from the Nachshom prison guard unit waited outside of the bathroom with the door half open. Suddenly, they heard the door slam and lock. Once they were able to break through the door, they found Cohen had jumped through the bathroom window to the courtyard two floors below.

The bathroom did not have bars. Police found Cohen’s shoes on the ground near where he jumped.

Immediately, large numbers of police showed up on the premises and a helicopter began circling overhead. Police believe that Cohen had an accomplice who was waiting in a getaway car as Cohen had no wallet and no cell phone when he escaped.

Cohen was jailed in October 2007 for refusing to give his wife a “get” or Jewish divorce. According to tradition, the man must agree to give his wife the divorce. Cohen has refused to grant his wife a divorce according to Jewish customs for the past 12 years. This makes his wife an “aguna” or “chained woman” as she cannot get remarried according to Jewish customs.

The Rabbinical Courts sentenced Cohen to a prison in hopes that it would force him to change his mind. Cohen was known as a “civilian prisoner” rather than a “criminal prisoner” because he had not committed any crimes. A few weeks ago, the Rabbinical Courts sentenced Cohen to an additional year.

The estranged wife’s lawyer told reporters that Cohen had agreed to a compromise and was on the verge of granting the “get” before he fled.

The wife told reporters she also blamed the Prison Service’s “negligence” in allowing her ex-husband to escape and accused the guards of “acting like buddies.”

In 2012, the Rabbinical Courts issued 60 judgments against men who refused to grant their wives a divorce, ranging from travel and financial restrictions to jail time. There are thousands of “chained women” in Israel, according to Batya Kahane-Dror, an attorney and the director of the aguna advocacy organization Mavoi Satum.

Content is provided courtesy of the Jerusalem Post

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  1. Had commentators #2 or #3 not stopped before rushing into print to consider that the prisoner could have been brought from prison to grant his wife a divorce, for example?

    No, I did not think they had.

  2. The JPost has the rest of the story. He was in prison for get refusal and had been brought to the rabbinical court for a possible divorce agreement.

  3. Dozens of police and Prison Service officers searched the streets of downtown Jerusalem on Wednesday for a man imprisoned for six years for refusing to divorce his wife who escaped from custody by leaping from a bathroom window.

    Shai Cohen, 40, was brought to the capital to appear before the rabbinical court over divorce proceedings. During the hearing, he asked his warders to be allowed go to the bathroom, then made a break for freedom by jumping from the bathroom window, on the second floor.

    Cohen was not handcuffed for medical reasons, and was not shackled on his ankles because he refused to enter the court under those circumstances.

    Officials suspect the fugitive had an accomplice waiting for him outside as he had no money or phone and he left one of his shoes at the scene of his escape, Ynet said.

    Cohen’s court appearance was scheduled to formally end his marriage. He had separated from his wife 12 years ago.

    Under Israeli law, divorce procedures are handled by the rabbinical courts and a divorce can only be completed with the explicit agreement of the husband. If a husband refuses to grant his wife a divorce then rabbinical courts can attempt to coerce him into changing

  4. There are two ways that a chained woman can be freed from her state of agunahood. One is by receiving a get and the other is by the demise of the recaltricant husband. Vehameivin yavin.


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