Jerusalem – An Israeli woman’s quest to obtain a get from her husband may have finally come to an end after a private rabbinical court in Haifa annulled the marriage because one of the witnesses was a convicted pedophile when the wedding took place.
According to Ynet, Oshrat Ben-Haim spent eight years trying to obtain a get from her husband Sharon. Married in 2008, the couple lived in New Jersey, but their marriage began to deteriorate, and two years later while on a family trip to Israel with their infant daughter, Oshrat Ben-Haim filed for a divorce.
While Sharon Ben-Haim initially signed a get freeing his wife from the marriage, he elected not to give over the necessary documents after the two had a serious disagreement. Ben-Haim returned to New Jersey without his family and since that time, the couple has had a bitter relationship that has included an international child custody battle and a public shaming campaign intended to pressure Ben-Haim.
While the Haifa Rabbinical Court eventually ordered Sharon Ben-Haim to divorce his wife, he refused to do so and the beis din refused to take punitive action against him, reported The Jerusalem Post.
Additional efforts to have the marriage annulled by the Haifa Rabbinical Court on the grounds that a pedophile is an invalid witness under Jewish law also failed.
An independent Orthodox rabbinical court, however, agreed to annul the marriage retroactively, welcome news for Oshrat Ben-Haim who is now nine months pregnant by another man and was facing the possibility that her child could be born with the halachic status of a mamzer.
The beis din was headed by Rabbi Daniel Sperber of Jerusalem’s Old City whose feminist views sometimes raise eyebrows, Rabbi Michael Avraham and a third rabbi who chose to remain anonymous.
The same rabbinical court annulled a controversial 23 year long marriage in June, a decision that was later echoed by the Haifa Rabbinical Court.
Rabbi Sperber said that the private beis din did not view itself as a higher authority than the Haifa Rabbinical Court, but instead chose not to rely on unnecessary stringencies.
Batya Kehana-Dror, head of Mavoi Satum which advocates for agunos, said that the Haifa Rabbinical Court had failed when it refused to annul the Ben-Haim marriage because of the invalid witness. She praised the independent beis din’s ruling, calling it a “watershed moment” for the public.
“These rulings constitute public pressure on the rabbinical courts to give halachic solutions on the one hand and demonstrate the need for privatizing the establishment on the other hand,” said Kehana-Dror.
But the private beis din’s ruling is not universally accepted. It was strongly denounced by Israel’s Rabbinical Courts Administration, which has full jurisdiction over all marriages, divorces and conversions in the country.
“The decision of the private-pirate ‘rabbinical court’ lacks, obviously, any significance and has no validity,” said the Rabbinical Courts Administration. “No ordained rabbi in Israel or abroad will marry her since she is still a married woman.