JERUSALEM (VINnews) — In a landmark decision which will serve as a precedent for the treatment of recalcitrant husbands in Israel, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a wealthy tycoon from abroad who has been helping his son evade giving a get (divorce document) to his wife will be fined a sum of about a million NIS. The three judges extended their support to the Rabbinical courts which have waged an uncompromising war against recalcitrant husbands who refuse to divorce their wives.
The woman who filed the suit had been living in America with her husband. About fifteen years ago during a visit to Israel, the woman suffered a serious stroke and became handicapped and dependent. At this stage her husband left her in her debilitated state to raise their two children alone and has refused to divorce her since.
When the woman submitted her request for a divorce six years ago, the Tel Aviv District Rabbinical court headed by Rabbi Shlomo Shtasman ruled that the husband should give a get but he refused to comply with the ruling. The woman claimed that her husband’s father, a tycoon belonging to one of the Chasidic communities in the US was persuading her husband to refuse her a get. The court checked her claim and found it to be correct, collecting testimony from various witnesses who were interrogated by the court in the US and in Israel.
Four years ago when the husband’s parents visited Israel they were summoned to the court and given an injunction against their leaving the country. Since the court was persuaded that the husband’s father was behind his refusal to comply with the court order, they imposed sanctions on the father for contempt of court even though he was not directly involved in the suit. The court wanted to imprison him for 30 days, and when he appealed to the Higher Rabbinical Court and the Supreme Court, his appeals were rejected.
After other testimony was presented by the husband’s fathers lawyers, the court reconvened and rejected the claims, claiming that the most effective and fair sanction would be to place a daily fine of 5000 NIS on the father of the get refuser in lieu of his prison sentence and to place a lien on his Jerusalem property. The father appealed to the Higher Rabbinical Court and then to the Supreme Court with a series of procedural claims.
On Tuesday the Supreme Court, represented by justices Yitzchak Amit, David Mintz and Yael Vilner rejected the claims of the father and ruled that “there is not reason for the court to intervene with the factual evidence presented as well as with the factual basis for the sanctions placed on the petitioner”. The judges stated that the fine of 5000 NIS per day had accumulated to 920,000 NIS by the time the petition was submitted.
The judges stressed that the case required unconventional tools in order to apply pressure to the recalcitrant husband. They praised the Rabbinical court which sends emissaries all over the world to solve problems of get refusal” and said that they too would do what they could to provide relief to the woman. They also sharply criticized the father’s attorney for “intentionally torpedoing efforts by the brother of the husband to effect a solution to the impasse and preventing the brother from contacting the representatives of the respondent.”
Judge Yael Vilner stated that “the phenomenon of agunot is a harsh social issue which involves cynical exploitation of the religious laws by husbands of these women in order to achieve their economic or social goals or sometimes simply out of a wish for revenge. At the same time they cause immeasurable harm to women seeking their liberty.”
The director of the Rabbinical courts, Rabbi David Malka stressed that the “courts would continue resolutely and determinedly to fight recalcitrance and the rulings of the court and the Supreme court clarify that the law enforcement system will not only act against the husbands refusing a get but also against those assisting them.”